Tremaine Welcomes Work of Cleve Gray

With Realist, Cubist, Abstract Expressionist, and Chinese-influenced art all in the same exhibition, viewers might assume that these works could not possibly come from the same hand. However, the pieces currently on exhibit in the Tremaine Gallery are all by one prolific artist, Cleve Gray. On October 26, the gallery opened its new show – “Flat File: Works on Paper by Cleve Gray.”
The retrospective features Gray’s works from his high school years to two years before his death, with a focus on the development of his style. A 20th-century American artist, Gray’s artworks are deeply influenced by his unique life experiences. After graduating from Phillips Academy Andover, he discovered an interest in Yuan-dynasty landscape paintings while attending Princeton University. After serving in World War II, he met Pablo Picasso and received training from French Cubist artists André Lhote and Jacques Villon.
Last winter, Ms. Joan Baldwin, curator of special collections and this exhibit, visited Gray’s studio with Mr. Charlie Noyes, former instructor in art. They selected two of Gray’s abstract paintings to be displayed outside the Art Wing. Ms. Baldwin first thought of curating an entire show after she discovered Gray’s old studio filled with drawings, prints, and watercolors. She said, “Mr. Gray’s son, Thaddeus Gray, kindly let us borrow Mr. Cleve Gray’s works, so we thought – let’s organize this exhibition.”
Ms. Baldwin sought to represent major changes in Gray’s artistic career when selecting specific pieces. She explained, “I didn’t only look for major, grand paintings, but also studies and sketches that demonstrate [the] development and evolution of his style. It’s important that viewers of this show could see clearly Mr. Gray’s gradual adaptation of specific artistic movements through the exhibited works.”
In an effort to introduce the audience to influences on Gray’s art, Ms. Baldwin, along with Ms. Terri Moore, director of the Tremaine Gallery, transformed the gallery into a more intimate learning space. They set up a wall of diagrams showing Gray’s relationships with other influential artists, a table with readings on art movements pertinent to the artist’s different styles, and a display of the tools and brushes he used. Ms. Moore said, “This exhibition is truly educational. It shows that the process of creating art is not linear but cyclical. Throughout Gray’s multiple experimentations with different artistic expressions, he constantly communicates his ideas through different visual approaches. Most importantly, intent and concepts behind creating art should come from one’s heart, and not for the sake of creating.”
Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Moore also sought to emphasize the different phases of the artist’s career when arranging pieces. Ms. Moore said, “I divided the gallery into two layers – the works displayed on the outer walls serve as a linear narrative of Gray’s artistic evolution and his learning process, while the works [on] the inner walls are mainly black and white, done in different media, [and they] capture his feelings and emotions through his mark-making in a more cyclical manner, displaying the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ in a recurring fashion.”
The show has garnered positive feedback from the community. Frank Cai ’20 commented, “This show is amazing – I love everything about it – but especially the landscapes. It has a hint of Cezanne’s influence in the usage of cubic, geometric shapes, but Gray made it original by using watercolor, and his unconventional choices of color captured the essence of light beautifully.”
“Flat File” will close on January 12. The gallery will welcome its next show, “Kahn and Selesnick,” on January 25.