Ray Kleinlein, visiting artist at Davidson, takes an approach serious and loving. And his paintings of everyday objects–a pillow, box of tissues, garden hose–are refreshing and marvelous.
Kleinlein clearly loves moving oils around a canvas. Despite the humble subject matter, his work affirms the traditional power of paint as a carrier of information and emotion.
Kleinlein’s work touches older traditions in other ways. One is how realism can bend toward abstraction. The toilet paper painting is titled “White Still Life (toilet paper).” It recalls the true title of James McNeill Whitstler’s painting of his mother "Arrangement in grey and black no. 1."
The painting is not about toilet paper, but the transformative power of a sharp eye and true hand. Kleinlein uses gold, white, tan, blue and purple in the shadows to build towering shapes and textures made vivid by light.
Stare at them, and these toilet paper rolls become the white cliffs of Dover, mountains of Antarctic ice or just shades of subtle color.
excerpted from a Charlotte Observer review, September 9, 2002
Ray Kleinlein created the most intriguing still lifes in the exhibit. Focusing on single objects, he achieves impressive trompe l’oeil effect, made all the more so by the large scale. Visitors feel tempted to open his large Box, pick up the White Shirt on a hangar, or take one of the huge rolls form the White Still Life.
They are superbly executed, only in their realism of forms, but also in their exquisite modulations of tone. The subtlety in the pinkish tonality of the rolls gives a surprisingly sensuous quality to the object, making both its plumpness and softness tangible to the viewer.
excerpted from a Columbus Dispatch review, March 12, 2000
From first glimpse the painting on the gallery website caught my attention. The image was books, spines turned away from us, stacked one on top of another. In two seconds the painting, the size of a postage stamp on the website, revealed itself to me. It wasn’t about the books. It was about the holy, serene space in which the books existed.
I was charged by a painting powerful enough to communicate so clearly, even though greatly reduced in size and filtered through a variety of media. It seemed imperative to me to see the work in an empty gallery, so I went, a week before the exhibition to see what was on view.
In the guise of still life Ray Kleinlein has a history of isolating and presenting icons of sexual identity, class, and generation. The objects he paints tell the story, in symbols, of his life and his culture. One might miss the narrative if not exposed to the long trajectory of his work. I am a long-time Kleinlein observer who recalls from earlier times the paintings of gym socks, or the shower curtain in Paris, giving way to the baby clothes of his daughter, and now to the clothes and books of a thinking man’s life and the grace notes of a marriage. The objects he paints are fragments from our material world: the chic shopping bag, the carefully wrapped gift, the ironed pinstripe shirt.
A sculptor friend, looking at a painting by Kleinlein told me once, “he sculpts with paint”. One can’t fail to notice the rich low level relief of his paint surface. It’s delicious and conscious, and without artifice. It comes from an honest core of energy, not some flashy glissando of technique. We read that honesty. It is in-escapable and it is sensual.
Beyond the lush surface and the distillation of a culture, there is the space. Kleinlein isolates his objects in an environment. It’s largely white, but totally alive with the slightest cast of perhaps blue or yellow, or with the indication of a reflective surface. Seductive as the subject of each painting is, the space in which it exists is often the star. It always seems to carry a mood. I find myself trying to decipher how that ground can be so alive, so vibrant. The pinstripe shirts, rendered life size, fill the picture plane, leaving no negative space and the mood is purely male-- like a lot of big guys vying for dominance, bursting out of the picture plane. The books are as meditative as an altar. The painting of the wrapped gift almost levitates in its space, clearly communicating anticipation.
A friend did me the favor of asking, recently, how I look at art in museums. It caused me to give serious thought to how one looks at art in general. I walk past almost everything unmoved, until something grabs me, and that is the work with which I develop a relationship. I square off with it, and it begins to speak to me. Usually, what I’m sensing is the original energy expressed by the artist, trapped in paint, like an insect in amber. I can feel that artist’s presence across time and space. It’s about the energy. For me, after long practice, I can read it as clearly as I can read any book. The energy that comes from the mind and brush of Ray Kleinlein is a mix of many things, among them curiosity, sensuality, humor and serenity. One feels his seeking, tastes his life. It’s all there, radiating, for anyone to see, for all time.
ElizabethBradford.com, April 23, 2014
There is something religious about Ray Kleinlein’s paintings. Like an offering, an homage to the art of painting and the beauty of humble objects, the works possess a careful clarity and honesty that trace the lineage of still life painting from the Dutch Baroque to Pop Art. Kleinlein’s paintings are the sum of the past, but they reproduce no one past style in particular. They are much more. His works are a truly contemporary form of still life painting, born from his own unique manner of seeing his subject matter. In each painting a carefully selected object is elevated for contemplation. His work also pays homage to labor and to the notion of perfection as a worthy pursuit.
Ultimately, Ray Kleinlein’s paintings are rich with history, humor and meaning. They are excellent manifestations of his personal philosophy. The works offer homage to painting and mumble objects but also to a life of looking, living, and learning. Kleinlein’s real gift as a painter is in his ability to show the viewer that the more one learns and looks, the more one will see. In essence, his work encompasses some basic tenants of many religious and philosophical belief systems—the importance of labor as a meaning method of achieving fulfillment, the necessity of gratitude as a way to remain humble and thoughtful, and the pursuit of perfection (in its inherent paradox) as a measure of realizing enlightenment.
excerpted from a catalog essay, May 2004
In his recent paintings, Ray kleinlein elevates the mundane--an aluminum pan, bulbs of garlic, stacks of bath towels--to the iconic.
Kleinlein isn't a newcomer to the Columbus art scene. But each time his work is spotlighted, viewers see refinement in his handling of imagery. A selection of 17 recent paintings at the Keny Galleries emphasizes the artist's fascination with simple objects and his ability to produce stunning realism.
Painting objects such as garlic and towels realistically, Kleinlein said, "is an affirmation of life."
His paintings of a huge load of bread cooling on a rack (Bread) ashows a new tendency towards the abstract. In Aluminum Pan, Kleinlein was intrigued by the abstract pattern on the sides of the pan.
Most of his objects are presented on a large scale. AS one contemplates them, they seem to take on individual personalities. Yes, there are still lives but remarkably vital
excepted from a Columbus Dispatch review, November 12, 2019