Todd Gray was born just when Pop Art materialized on the American art scene. He grew up in an environment saturated with popular culture, and with artists who transformed this cultural iconography into high art. Gray’s sculptures pay homage to the legacies of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, and Victor Vasarely and the subsequent Op Art Movement. Despite his appreciation of the original Pop Artists, his sculptures remain distinctly contemporary. He reduces and combines motifs of both modern and classical Pop Art imagery to create a hybrid sculptural style that is both unique and innovative.
In his most recent series Pop Geometry, Gray gives his works historical perspective by incorporating elements of the past into his modern arrangements. In Guff, he arranges three staggered rectangular blocks to form a rhythmic column. On the bottom block, which forms the base of the column, Gray paints a woman who recalls the iconic women of Roy Lichtenstein’s comics. The second column reveals a segment of an Andy Warhol inspired Campbell’s soup can, and the topmost segment includes a portion of an American flag that alludes to Jasper John’s flag paintings.
In another sculpture entitled Hashtag, Gray more acutely combines elements of the aforementioned artists with popular culture today. The foundation of this sculpture is covered in a black and white polka-dot pattern that reminds us of to the Ben-Day dots of Lichtenstein’s paintings, and three-dimensional cubes decorated in neon colors. The numbers one through ten adorn the base. The overall shape of the sculpture forms what can be interpreted as the dialing pad of a phone and, in a testament to the surge of information technologies and the new language and symbols associated with it, Gray frames the sides of the sculpture with words such as “lol,” and “GR8.” In Gray’s work, emojis and “texting-language” of the 21st Century replace the Campbell soup cans and iconic consumer goods that were prevalent a few decades earlier. Given the resurgent interest in comics, due to Comic Con and franchises such as the Avengers, and the popularity of pop art in auction houses, Gray’s style is notably relevant.
Gray executes his sculptures with exquisite technical quality. As a former cabinet-maker and practicing artist for over thirty years, Gray has had the opportunity to hone his technical skill. Within his sculptures, Gray seamlessly fuses together linear blocks that, as they build upon each other, create a dynamic mass of shifting and tumbling shapes, imbuing the sculpture with energy and movement. The playful form of Gray’s sculptures reappears in his application of color. His tonal palette is bright and cheerful, filled with vibrant reds, rosy pinks, and saturated greens that draw the viewer’s eyes across the sculptures. The astounding variety of colors he incorporates into his sculptures do not clash, but instead play off of each other, instilling his works with a lively quality that adds to the three dimensionality of the objects. The shapes, colors patterns, and texts such as “zap!” and,“pow!” Gray incorporates into his works create a space that feels as if a comic strip has come to life.
As Gray progresses in his artistic practice, he is more intuitive in his creativity. This is evident in the titles of his works. He has recently been interested in arbitrarily titling his work, or using a single word inspired by Dr. Seuss, in an attempt not only to add to the playfulness of his art, but also to allow for the visual impact the work to speak for itself.
Gray acknowledges that his recent works are the culmination of his artistic practice. He says “the work I have been doing recently is the work I feel I have always been meant to create.” Certainly, his current sculptures ensure him a place as a key innovator within the modern day pop art movement.