Barrett Art Gallery

SMC Performing Arts Center
Santa Monica Blvd. & 11th St., Santa Monica
(310) 434-3434 or (310) 434-8204

Exhibits, opening receptions, and gallery talks and lectures are FREE. 


Raymond Saunders Recent Paintings

Exhibit: February 16 – March 26, 2016
Gallery Talk: February 20, 5pm in the Barrett Gallery
Opening ReceptionFebruary 20, 6 - 8pm

“In the process of painting, for the one thing that someone sees, there are innumerable things that they never see” – Raymond Saunders 

Raymond Saunders has been an important presence in American Contemporary Art for over 50 years. Frequently compared to Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Raymond Saunders’ voice has remained unclassifiable and singular. Unique in its expression, within each piece his voice is heard in dialogue with itself; like a freestyle jazz session where various instruments interact and respond with chance and intention, with rawness,  and control.


His predominantly black paintings combine energetic and dissonant mixtures of drawing, collage, assemblage and gestural bursts of paint. The personal scribbles, found objects, and enigmatic symbols are as revealing about his working methods, as they are subtle in encoding messages about politics, race and his life experiences as an African American artist. The dramatic black backgrounds provide a dark pictorial space reminiscent of blackboards. Knowledge and information is recorded with delicate white chalk-like lines that speak quietly against found objects and images, constructing narratives that push and pull in different directions frequently loaded with double meanings. Despite the use of disparate elements, the arrangements are unexpectedly elegant. They are a poetic depiction of what it is like to live in an urban city with a vast array of materials utilized in creating one’s identity. These carefully chosen materials once discarded by society, are reused by Raymond to compose lyrically engaged and wise works of art that dismantle cultural hierarchies and improvise with high and low.


Raymond Saunders studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania, earning a B.F.A at Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1960. In 1961, he received a M.F.A. from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Saunders has received multiple awards such as the Prix de Rome, 1964-1966, and the National Endowment for the Arts Award in 1977 and 1984, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976. His work is held in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

All pieces are Untitled, mixed media on panel