Johnnie Lee Gray

Matinee at the Ritz, 1992
Acrylic on Board
24.50 x 47.50 in
$65,000
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As a child Johnnie Lee Gray loved to go to the movies on Saturday to watch Western serials. He went to the Ritz Theater, an all-black movie house. Blacks were either banned from, or restricted to the balconies, of "white" movie theaters. As with several of his paintings, the artist is the man to the left with the big hat. Artist, Johnnie Lee Gray was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina in 1941. In his early years, Gray demonstrated artistic talent, painting & drawing as a way to express his emotions & depict his surroundings. Working alongside his grandparents in the fields of their sharecropper farm, & later as a carpenter, textile mill worker, & house painter, Gray learned early on to use the materials of his milieu to create works of art that drew on his memories & experiences as a black American man. After graduating from the county’s segregated Lincoln High School in 1960, Gray enlisted in the Army, where he served for seven years, including an 18-month volunteer tour of duty in Vietnam. As a Vietnam Veteran and self-taught artist, Gray’s work illustrated his experiences in the military as an African-American and the participation of black people in the history of the American and world landscape. Described as “visionary” “outsider” artist, the patterned shapes, visual texture, vibrant palettes and repetitive forms showcased in his paintings are recognizable characteristics of his historical narratives. The PBS television series, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow aired nationally in the fall of 2002 & prominently featured Grays work. The series was sponsored by New York Life Insurance & gave new attention & recognition to Gray's work. The public response from the series prompted a traveling exhibition in 2003, curated by Dr. Gwendolyn H. Everett of Howard University, with its official opening night at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY. From 2003-2009, Johnnie Lee Gray’s work was exhibited in such venues as the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, Washington D.C.; The Forbes Galleries, Manhattan, NY; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL; Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA; California State University, Northridge, CA; the Spartanburg County Museum of Art, SC; University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville, VA; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC; Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA; Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC; Converse College Milliken Art Gallery, Spartanburg, SC; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem, NY; and the Cherokee County History & Arts Museum, Gaffney, SC. Significant exhibitions include traveling solo exhibits: “Rising Above Jim Crow: The paintings of Johnnie Lee Gray”, 2003 and “Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art”, 2007-2008.

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Charleston, SC 29402

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Chattahoochee Hills, GA  
30268
(770) 243-3720

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CHARLESTON

83 Broad St.
Suite 623
Charleston, SC 29402

ATLANTA

11159 Serenbe Lane
Chattahoochee Hills, GA  
30268
(770) 243-3720

Contact

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