“Urban Penumbra” is a series of mixed media works by East Coast artist, Ray Ferrer that is currently on display at Elephant Room through Feb. 22nd. At the opening, guests inquired about the photography or the silk screen process of the work. The work is actually spray paint and acrylic on canvas which Ferrer has worked over his complicated and detailed stencils. The photography reference makes sense since the photorealism of Ferrer’s subjects is indisputable.
We mainly exhibit local Chicago artists here, but with all of the submissions we receive from around the world, I think it’s important to exhibit a significant, emerging artist from elsewhere at least once a year in order to keep Chicago inspired and maintain a connection to the larger art world. Ferrer successfully brings that inspiration to us through this new series of work.
Ferrer discovered his talent for his artistic practice much later in life. He studied engineering and has worked as a consultant over the years. He’s always had a passion for art and more specifically, photography. It seems that his interest in photography as a child has now come full circle. To his astonishment, a photograph he took of a woman looking into a storefront window is proudly on display in his parents home.
All of his work starts as a photograph, which he then digitally manipulates in order to capture the emotion he wants to portray. While looking at this final digital image, Ferrer cuts a stencil that will result in a painted image on canvas that reveals the emotion he intended to capture. Varying the distance of the spray paint can from the surface allows his work to ebb and flow the depth of vision. Surprisingly, Ferrer revealed to us that once he completes a piece, the stencil is torn up and thrown away so that the final work will never be reproduced. His time and effort with that work is forever held solely within that final canvas.
The use of solely black and white is a very intentional decision on Ferrer’s part as he wants the subject alone to be interpreted without the distraction of colors. The raw emotion of the subject is revealed clearly through the expressive quality of the expressions and backgrounds in black, white and grey contrasts.
Every piece is titled very simply with words like “Turmoil”, “Youth”, and “Optimism”. It is obvious that Ferrer is trying to be as pure as possible in his practice and he is successfully able to communicate his intentions flawlessly. I am not always certain that perfection is the answer in artistic practice, however, if it is important to the artist, then it must be important to us. With Ferrer’s work, I am astounded by the quality of work and his ability to convey exactly his intent. “I am vehemently opposed to using art as a means to rely on overly-complex theories or ideas to prop up mediocre images. I believe that the quality of the actual work is what is paramount.” – Ferrer. Ferrer’s admission of his need for perfection in his work is endearing as he remains a modest and open individual. In his case, the quality of his work is paramount as each hand-cut stencil seems perfectly cut with a precision that reveals an extremely relatable time and place in all of our lives or the lives of those we love.