Fans of surrealist illustration will not want to miss the latest exhibit at Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea, A Gentle Kind of Cruelty, featuring works by Toronto-based artist Ray Caesar. In this collection, according to the gallery’s press release, “Caesar expands upon his signature aesthetic by taking a more painterly approach, rendering new imagery with softer edges and greater movement than in previous work. The artist’s digitally created dreamscapes, set in elaborately furnished Rococo-style interiors, feature haunting doll-like female figures with delicate features and porcelain complexions.
The hybrid characters, part-child-part-woman, some sprouting tails, tentacles and other animal appendages, all wear elaborate costumes that reference fashions of the past and often incorporate futuristic elements as well. Caesar works in Maya (a 3D modeling software used for digital animation effects in film and game industries), using it to create his figures as well as the virtual realms in which they exist.”
The results of Caesar’s technique are really quite spectacular, and photos can’t possibly reveal the depth of detail in these illustrations, which appear almost 3-D and beg to be meticulously examined for their gift of revealing new, previously hidden aspects on each viewing. I couldn’t help but think of the work of Mark Ryden, another gifted contemporary surrealist, by way of comparison. Like Ryden, his work is haunting, dark and somewhat twisted, but also breathtakingly beautiful. As they say, every picture tells a story. I really loved the sense of texture and surface translucence in each scenario. This was my first exposure to Ray Caesar’s art and it has definitely piqued my interested in exploring his body of work. What a fun show!
A Gentle Kind of Cruelty runs through February 19, 2011 at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor (West of 10th Avenue) in New York.