Friday, June 27, 2014

Art text and Ray Kampf

My friend Ray Kampf did a gallery retrospective for this 50th birthday. It was a great one night party downtown at the KGB gallery. One of the neatest projects he did was to have 50 creative people do a version of a 3D graphic representation of himself called a Ray-doh, which looks like a playskool figure.  People did some incredible things.  His work is great, straddling art and design, and he has a great deal of it.  One of his colleagues where he teaches said to him, "I had no idea you were this talented."  He is.

He asked me to write the introduction to his show, which I was honored to do. It's always been something I've wanted to do - write text to curate an art show. I did.  The picture of it is above, and here's the text. I hope you enjoy:

Raymond Kampf is firmly lodged between Duchamp and Disney, on a log flume dark ride through the subconscious of 20th century Americana.  His tools are puns, surprising juxtapositions, comment on commentary. He knows the quickest way to make a point is through humor, and the sharpest jokes reveal a difficult truth.
His work is mid-century optimism meets early 21st century sarcasm. He is Mad Men meets Mad Mag. Though sarcastic, ironic, and even angry, his work is hopeful not pessimistic.  Hope points toward a solution, while pessimism rarely admits there may be one.  He provokes to make the viewer think.
Raymond Kampf pokes you with a stick and runs away laughing.
If Mary Blair, Saul Bass and Charles and Ray Eames starred in a production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” Ray would design the poster. He might even be the missing child.  Deborah Sussman would probably understudy all four parts. It would be performed for Al Hirschfeld.
When Raymond Kampf sees incorrect kerning he becomes incensed, graphically. If we were using Roman numerals we would call this his Lth birthday. It is unclear if he would be annoyed or amused.
In Fauxtopia, Ray reveals the sham hucksterism behind the “amusement” park, making the viewer rethink the concept of “rides” through the juxtaposition of historical events with amusement park themes, e.g, “Triumph of the Will Skyway” or “Dogma and Pony Show” with its exhortation to “Taste Jesus.”  He imagines life and history as a horror ride, finding politics suspect while exposing the ridiculous and horrible underneath; witness “The Red Scare,” “Jingo Juxebox Jubilee” and “Colonial Renaissance Re-enactment Festival Faire.”
In his personal life, when his late partner Jim Daniels was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Ray expressed his emotion through his art. Working in a form most would closely associate with advertising, Ray explores and engages in the wider world. He asks us to look deeper at graphic art,  and what we find there is surprising, challenging, sometimes touching.
His Christmas illustrations are whimsical, funny, silly, urbane. They are a yearly highlight.  The musical theater timeline is an ingenious salute to one of his favorite subjects. I’m certain you will find a piece, or several, in this retrospective that speaks directly to you.  It’s possible it will be pointing at you and laughing.
Enjoy the world of Kampf. Here’s to his Lth.

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