Ray Caesar’s Gentle Kind of Cruelty

Ray Caesar’s new exhibition, “A Gentle Kind of Cruelty” premiers this weekend in New York at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Ray’s large scaled works and limited print editions reconstruct feelings of disparate emotion and personal challenges faced while dealing with Dissociative Identity Disorder. (“Day Trip” featured above).

Eris : 40x 30 : 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm : 1/1
Ray’s continues through hallowed halls of early memory and personal experiences of the spiritual realm. Inhabitants of Ray’s preserve were experienced through his childhood and experiences while working at the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto for sixteen years. Ray’s work provides clues on a path that I would describe as, “Ray Caesar is first major artists working as outsider with digital tools that compliments Roger Cardinal’s terminology—art brut or raw art.”


A couple of years ago, I had the great privilege of hosting Ray and his wife in San Diego to sign the limited edition of his book, “Ray Caesar: Volume One Art Collection” sponsored by Jonathan LeVine and myself. It was one of those rare moments to participate and profoundly exchange. Kindly, Ray Caesar took time out to introduce his new exhibition, featuring one-of-a-kind, large-scaled works now on display at Jonathan LeVine Gallery through February 19, 2011. Enjoy and kind thanks to Ray Caesar.

Well the name of the show is "A Gentle Kind of Cruelty" and it references the last 3 years of therapy I have been going under. I see therapy as a very gentle kind of cruelty as it takes you back to a time I would rather forget. I think I told you I am dealing with Dissociative Identity Disorder…its been a bit of a strange time for me and for the most part its not a lot of missing time…more like “distorted time.” I go into a sort of trance that is like a deep daydream and another aspect or part of me kind of takes over…(Totentanz featured above).


Anyway "Calamity" is sort of how it feels...one minute you are doing fine then you swing back and forth and then you fall without any warning. The piece is loosely-based on the work of Jean Honoré Fragonard’s ”The Swing“ which I always loved and in part the pieces of Francois Boucher who painted unassuming lovers in some sort of paradise.

Fraonard (L) : Boucher (R)

Often, musical instruments would be found in both Fragonard and Boucher’s work off in the corner as a kind of idyllic frivolity of the good things in life. Often this was the Musee De Cour an instrument that was forgotten after the revolution. I am not sure if they have any literal meaning other than to suggest the girl spends her day in leisure and unconcern, but tragedy can strike the innocent anytime. I also thought it was a bit funny to put Bach music and a tambourine as if she was attempting something that difficult on such an instrument...a bit of humor. Tambourines also...like the swing…keep time or measure beats.

Keeping Time

The ants...red ones, like tiny jewels...along with all the other insects are the life in the garden no one notices or sees. For me, that hidden life is always suggestive of the subconscious and how without our knowing that subconscious can have a life of its own. It can be parts of our mind that are dissociated from us...separate and having a mind of its own­—totally unconcerned about the calamities and tragedies befalling us.


At the time, I was reading about Dylan and thinking of the words to his song that suggests a kind of pied piper aspect—the little ants follow along. Dylan’s lyrics have so so much meaning...when the idea to put a tambourine in the piece occurred I came across these lyrics in the song that stuck with me.

Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”
Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

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