Review: Funk Soul Brother

Work by William Denton Ray is on view at The Harrison Center.

3 stars

Harrison Center for the Arts,

through Oct. 28.

William Denton Ray presents a

large grouping — I counted 53 pieces — of mixed media works, mostly

reliefs depicting fictitious characters, comprised of 3 or more layers made of

pieces of wood, MDF panel and/or di-bond, with acrylic, colored pencils, ink,

paint markers and spray paint. The work "explores his whimsical imagination of

soulful characters and imaginary deities," according to the exhibition text.

Whimsical and imaginative are

good words to describe Ray's art indeed. His craftsmanship and painterly skill

are undeniable, and the work is fun and engaging for the viewer and would

certainly "pop" in most people's homes.

Ray falls flat, however,

insofar as presenting a regrettably titled, conceptually hollow grouping of works.

Funk Soul Brother is certainly a

trite title for a fine art exhibition, and this underlines the fact that there

is really no concept tying the works in the show together. The exhibition text

states that "the characters become a central focus," but this is the only focus beside showcasing Ray's artistic skill and

technique — these characters tell no stories, and there are far too many

of them for the viewer to weave meaningful narratives of their own.

There are also a slew of

references to various world cultures that feel inappropriately borrowed and

devoid of context; they are never hashed out and will likely leave viewers

scratching their heads. The best works in the show are the largest ones, such

as "The Whim Idol" (pictured), which Ray had professionally die-cut.

More focus on the larger,

better-realized works would be beneficial. If Ray can tighten his focus and

increase the intellectual depth of his artwork, expect great things from him in

the future.