Joy Ray: Ghost Visions
October 1 through October 31, 2021
By CORI HUTCHINSON, October 2021
Like a headstone rubbing xeroxed endlessly, a song chanted backwards and upside down, faded denim worn then unworn, the spirit of a little object awoken by its transition to artifact, Joy Ray’s solo exhibition Ghost Visions haunts its October-long venue, Shockboxx Project. Ray’s work, for the living, demonstrates the supernatural forces that rest upon language, material, and process.
Working in collaboration with found fabric and the unseen, Ray composes coarse terrains imprinted with illegible, but not insignificant, information. Pieces like Lost Transmission simulate guidance by a planchette, the heart-shaped cursor used to guide Ouija board players, reading something like PDNVXH MESASA, hectically inverted and flipped. This study of letters is stamped within a corroded grayscale, invoking the spirit of DIY by way of photocopy (also patching and thrifted denim). Spirit Duplicator puns the 20th century printing method, named for the distinctive use of alcohol in the dissolvent, with specter. This piece, like many in the series, asks the viewer to reconsider the relationship between mark-making and memory and, more abstractly, what is lost and what is gained of clarity, mystery, and experience.
Utilizing scraping techniques like frottage and grattage, Ray’s layers manifest a static noise, reminiscent of the “unexpected echoes” Craig Dworkin describes becoming attuned to through reading strategies in Reading the Illegible, quoting Robert Smithson. As Dworkin writes later, “identical modes of illegibility produce a wide variety of unique local effects.” This is also true of Ray’s work, especially across materials like drop cloths and rusted metals. Even among the same series between works like Relic and Dream Latencies, unique echoes can be heard. The similar rectilinear frame, disrupted alphabet, and stencil-like frames within frames of both yield individual readings, especially when in juxtaposition. For example, as viewers we may notice an exceptional fragmentation of code in Dream Latencies and a unification of the text block in Relic; and so on. The background "noise" of each resembles a cloud of bat wings fluttering against the surface, the skid of ink.
The artist’s Ghost Signatures series, consisting of corroded nameplates with topographical curves like radio waves seen from a distance ebbing in and out of light, reify the illegible. This asemic or open semantic experiment in spiritualism, alchemy, and embroidery suggests that a clear mark may lose its straightforward identity, but is not lost altogether in the rust of its temporal environment. Through the redaction of metal, a mysterious permanence is established. The artist's solidified ephemera is akin to volcanic lava fossilizing a fleeting moment.
For the spirits, perhaps there is additional opportunity for correspondence in this work. A virtual séance of sorts will occur the evening of Wednesday, October 20 under a full hunter’s moon featuring the artist as well as writer Shana Nys Dambrot in spectral conversation. During the closing event on October 31, Jonathan Schleyer will lead a guided meditation inviting what Ray names "one of those moments of strangeness that makes us aware of the fact we’re surrounded by the mysterious at all times.” Registration information can be found by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/278056920595962. WM
Cori Hutchinson is a poet, watercolorist, and library assistant living in Brooklyn.view all articles from this author