Meet Todd Gray • AWK
The ART WITH KANGA: PARIS EXPEDITION got even more exciting once we discovered Todd Gray, an American contemporary artist (photography, performance and sculpture).
“Critics have noted that Grays work is ‘fluent in cultural iconography, driven by introspection and steeped in issues of corporate politics and racial identity and that his self-portraits exude a traditional read of the exterior likeness." - Black is, Black Ain't. Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.
Gray describes himself as an artist & activist his primary focus being on issues of class, colonialism, gender and race.
With an impressive body of work, Gray has permanent public collections in;
• The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
• The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and
• The University of Parma, Italy to name a few.
It was at the "Michael Jackson: On The Wall exhibition held at the Grand Palais in Paris, France (January, 2019) that Kanga discovered this talented artist!
Todd Gray started work on a project to photograph the Jackson 5 and was later told that Michael Jackson wanted him as his personal photographer. Gray captured images of Michael Jackson from 1974 to 1984.
"My photographs of Michael Jackson from 1974 to 1984 show him as the engaging, charming, youthful person he was before the insatiable demands of his extraordinary celebrity bore so heavily on him. As I reflect, I realise now that this was the time before he was King." - Excerpted from "Michael Jackson: Before He Was King," by Todd Gray (2009).
Gray's work for the On The Wall exhibition, have the same theme. All the pictures have other images covering Michael Jackson's face. This comes from the idea of every one heaving their own image and perceptions of the king of POP depending on the stage of his career they were first introduced to him.
Gray obscures Michael Jackson's face in his work for the exhibition, thereby allowing the viewers to project their own individual Michael Jackson onto the work. He also did this in an attempt to allow the viewers read the body language of not only Michael Jackson the artist & entertainer but also the body language of a black man, inspiring a plurality of readings and references.
"Michael was an enigma. I had never met any one like him before in my life." Todd Gary