Actor/Playwright Raymond Barry Exhibits Visually Stunning Artwork that Reflects Multi-faceted Life
Simply. The. Best.
In a Nation where anyone with enough bullying, bluff and bluster can become President. In a City by the Pacific packed with less than stellar angels. And, in a century-old industry, where the Hollywood “hype machine” has been set up to constantly churn out the “Next Big Thing” or “It Girl,” it’s just heartening to know someone who just quietly and gratefully goes about his job.
Theater, television and movie actor and author Raymond J. Barry, who has a new showing of his visually stunning paintings at The Lodge in Los Angeles, is one of those quiet, unassuming heroes who make Hollywood keep ticking on over.
Every day when he’s not on set, he leaves his family early to head to the Hollywood YMCA to pound the punching bag and chat with fellow artists, actors and writers. No fuss, no muss, no fancy airs, this former New York native just goes about his day in his laconic way. It’s a way that has seen him earn some honorable achievements, including: touring around the world with legendary theater companies: earning a Dramalogue Award for his lead performance in Sam Shepard’s Buried Child; a Dramalogue Award and L.A. Drama Critics Award for Writing and Best Actor, for his play Once in Doubt; and, a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award.
In the process, Barry has played a variety of unforgettable but under-stated movie roles including; Tom Cruise’s father Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July; Mr. Delacroix one of the shattered parents of a murdered child in Dead Man Walking; and, one of the “three wise men” in Training Day. His recurring TV series credits include everything from Justified, Gotham, Ray Donovan, among other guest starring appearances.
But it was at a Greenway Court Theater production of Barry’s play — Foreclosure (Or Yelling at Women Walking Their Dogs) — that I saw some of his spectacular artwork on display. He had woven into the three-person production that his character’s son, an eccentric, unsuccessful painter, who depends on his parents for shelter, announces he is having an exhibit of his art. Barry used several of his large oil on canvas paintings as key props in the engaging stage production.
Now, Barry’s own art exhibition, Butterflies, Words and Colors, is opening on April 13, with the artist saying of his art:
“The show consists of a new series of both rather large paintings and framed drawings. The visual theme is the subject of butterflies, which are wonderfully delicate creatures endowed with color that is a feast for any artist’s eyes. Also the metamorphosis they go through from birth to the butterfly stage and the freedom of their flight is metaphoric of my life that has experienced various growth stages to this current period that offers me freedom to create in three media, acting, painting and writing. I’m exhibiting now because I’ve accumulated a rather large bulk of work that should be viewed by the general public, especially by my friends. I paint pretty much every day in an isolated studio, the environment of which with all of its color, I love, but my impulse is to bring what I’ve created out to the world for public view. Actually, I now spend more time painting than I do acting in film and television, so painting has become very personal to me, especially with the addition of words from my journals included in the work.”
The exhibit has been curated by celebrated LA-based artist/lecturer Shane Guffogg, who’s previously been a Board Member for the City of Los Angeles where he was Director of Arts, Cultural & Education Interests, and where he was also the chief advocate for the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk.
So, Guffogg insightfully notes of Barry’s art:
“Raymond J. Barry is best known as an actor, but when he is not on a movie or TV set, he is in his studio, painting and writing. For Barry, the written word is a transfusion of thought that often manifests as a two or three person play, touching both sides of a theatrical realm; one part performance art, one part theater. These same words also find their way onto the brightly colored canvases that line Barry’s Hollywood studio. Color is the key ingredient — Barry’s canvases are drenched in primary and secondary colors, all singing in unison like a well-oiled theatrical performance.”
In addition, Guffogg explains how Barry uniquely uses his daily journals to add texture to the art:
“He takes one of his journals, of which there are hundreds, and randomly picks a page. Then he projects a handful of words on to a canvas. The words are then traced, but now their true meaning or purpose has been taken away, leaving only remnants of thoughts and memories, utterances that hint at a source of conversation. The letters become spaces to fill with intense colors, essentially camouflaging them. Other parts are made up of diagonal lines that hint at doorways or window panes, creating an internal structure. Colored dots are painted throughout like a daisy chain, bringing to mind Aboriginal art that depicts an abstraction of time and space, or within the context of Barry’s paintings, thought bubbles with indecipherable conversations. There is often one last element; a large butterfly whose colors and shapes are perfectly camouflaged as it flies over this world of abstracted beauty.”
Finally, Guffogg adds:
“His paintings are post-post-modern. They embody most, if not all, of the art movements of the 20th century, but these paintings aren’t about any of the artistic movements, as in the appropriating of ideas… When I look at Ray Barry’s art, I see the results of a person whose being is a mere vessel through which the information of the world can move, and people can find their voices and resting places in his words, plays, and art. These works of art are pure, in the sense that he paints for the sake of painting and without concern for the Art World’s trends. Barry didn’t set out to make a post-modern painting; it happened out of his necessity to honestly express what he sees and feels. He makes these paintings because he has to; they are autobiographical as a pure stream of conscious. Barry paints daily, without questioning why; he follows his instincts. The results are unadulterated truths; painting for the sake of painting, tapping into a deep well of emotions and his personal need to communicate his moment.”
Barry, who keeps punching that bag and engaging life with the vitality of one of his young sons, humbly suggests, “The paintings are a bit like an autobiography, using visual metaphor, having to do with my daily experience of living on this chaotic but beautiful planet of ours.”
That’s Raymond J. Barry — in his own way, uniquely human and one of the very best at what he does.