Recognized nationally and internationally for his evocative abstract landscapes and unique approach to materials and techniques, prominent Virginia artist Ray Kass is being celebrated with a university-wide series of exhibitions of work from his exemplary career.
The art featured in the exhibitions range from examples of his early foundational works, silk collages, and signature polyptych, multipanel works, to his most recent still life paintings. Together, these works represent highlights from what has been a prolific, ever-evolving, and accomplished career.
Kass, professor emeritus of art in Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies with an extensive record of national and international exhibitions, will be featured in three exhibitions on the Virginia Tech campus – at the Moss Arts Center, Armory Gallery, and Perspective Gallery – beginning in January.
“Kass is known not only for the quality and breadth of his art but as a pivotal figure in the region,” says Margo Ann Crutchfield, the Moss Arts Center’s curator at large.
In addition to his thriving studio practice, Kass is the founder and director of the Mountain Lake Workshop, a series of collaborative, community-based art projects drawing on the customs and resources of the Appalachian region.
Over the years the program has produced collaborative works between guest artists and members of the local community surrounding Mountain Lake in Giles County. The Mountain Lake Workshop has drawn art-world luminaries to the area, including Clement Greenberg, Donald B. Kuspit, and John Cage, and has influenced generations of artists in Virginia and the Southeast.
“I curated one of Ray’s first one-person museum exhibitions over 30 years ago at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, so I feel this is a very full-circle and especially rewarding experience for me,” explained Crutchfield, who began working on the current exhibition over a year ago. “Ray is an outstanding artist, right here in our midst, whose impact has been nothing short of remarkable.”
Kass’ work will be featured in the following exhibitions:
Ray Kass: “Silk and Water”
Perspective Gallery, Squires Student Center
Jan. 16-March 3
This exhibition at Perspective Gallery features Kass’ painted collages and ocean wave series of watercolors. The silk collages synthesize imagery of water and earth in bold compositions, which play through the veil of silk. The mixed media pieces of ocean waves capture the energy of water in the moment. “Silk and Water” is part of Perspective Gallery’s semester-long focus on the importance of water as an irreplaceable resource.
The Perspective Gallery will hold a special reception to celebrate the exhibition on Friday, Jan. 19, from 5-7 p.m.
Moss Arts Center, 190 Alumni Mall, Blacksburg
Jan. 18-March 31
The Moss Arts Center’s exhibition highlights exemplary work from Kass’ prolific career, ranging from his large-scale, multipanel “Polyptych” (1961-2003) paintings to his most recent “Still Lifes” (2015-2018), created with stencils in an inventive layering of water media, oil emulsion, and dry pigment on rag paper. Among the key works in the exhibition is the monumental painting “Broad Channel: Vorticella Polyptych” (1991) from the permanent collection of the Nevada Museum of Art, which will be seen in Virginia for the first time in more than 20 years.
The exhibition will open with a special reception on Thursday, Jan. 18 from 5-7 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center.
“Primary Elements: Foundational Works” by Ray Kass
Armory Gallery, 203 Draper Road, Blacksburg
Jan. 18-Feb. 16
The Armory Gallery’s exhibition presents key transitional works from Kass spanning five decades. There are no simple images in the vast archives of the artist’s work, but there are principle constituents that contribute to its complexity. These primitives — the first stages of what become series — are the focus of this exhibition. Technique, materials, mediums, and color become a sophisticated whole, and this path, traveled through landscapes, has informed Kass from the start.
The Armory Gallery will hold a special reception to celebrate the exhibition on Friday, Jan. 19 from 6-8 p.m.
These exhibitions and all related events are free and open to the public.
Kass’ work has been featured in 40 one-person exhibitions and more than 50 group exhibitions and is included in numerous public institution and private collections. He is represented by Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, Virginia, and Garvey/Simon in New York City.
Born in Rockville Centre, New York, Kass became an art professor at Virginia Tech in 1977 and was honored with emeritus status in 2003. He lives in Ellett Valley, located outside of Blacksburg, Virginia.
— Susan Bland