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 Dick Wray  (1933 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: Whimsical sketches-mixed media

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Untitled, 1981
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Obituary. Houston Chronicle, Thursday, January 24, 2013
By Douglas Britt, Arts Writer

Artist Dick Wray, a key figure in the formative years of Houston's contemporary art scene, died Sunday from complications due to liver disease.  He was 77.

Known for his abstract expressionist style of painting, Wray launched his career in 1959, entering a painting competition at what is now the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont.  He took pride in exhibiting his work every year thereafter until his most recent solo show in May at Wade Wilson Art.

That was no small achievement for an artist who spent the overwhelming majority of his career in the city of his birth, which had only the barest of art scenes when he returned from a two-year stint in Europe in the late 1950s.  In 2006 he told historian Sarah C. Reynolds his exposure during his travels to such painters as Jean Dubuffet, Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky made him realize "how backwards we were" in Houston.

"As far as the locals were concerned, Dick was one of the only painters who had been working seriously and with commitment," said James Harithas, director of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art.  Harithas gave Wray two solo exhibitions — first in 1975 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, then in 2003 at the Station.

For the 1975 show, Harithas and co-curator Paul Schimmel filled both CAMH's upstairs and downstairs galleries - an unprecedented gesture for a Houston artist.  Harithas described Wray's early work as "radical and adventurous and powerful - a very Texas approach to abstract expressionism."

The prolific Wray's Station exhibit featured about 100 works, all executed in 2003.  While they featured his trademark use of vigorously handled oil paint, they also incorporated digital scans of his own drawings and the occasional appropriation from magazines and comic strips.

That interest in using digital media with traditional painting techniques was typical of Wray, his son Robert Wray said.

"My brother (Harold Wray) and I are in the technology industry, and every device that we showed him he somehow incorporated into his pieces. He would always be using some sort of innovative feature in his work - experimenting with this, trying that. Even at 77, he was messing with an iPad."

Born in Houston in 1933, Wray attended the University of Houston School of Architecture from 1955 to 1958 before studying at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1958.  He taught at the Glassell School of Art from 1968 to 1982.  In 2000 he was named Texas Artist of the Year by Art League Houston.

His work is in more than a dozen public collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Biography from Old Hat Auctions:
Dick Wray was born in Houston, Texas in 1933.  He attended the University of Houston School of Architecture from 1955-1958, and studied in Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf, Germany in 1958.  He received a National Endowment for the Arts artist’s grant in 1978.  He lives and works in Houston.

Exhibition venues include the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; the Witte Museum and San Antonio Art Institute, San Antonio; Dallas Museum of Art and the Kimball Museum, Fort Worth.  He has also exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Boulder Center for the Visual Arts, Boulder, Colorado and the University of Chicago.

His work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Witte Museum; and San Antonio Art Museum.

Submitted by Stephanie Reeves, September 2007

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