Cleve Gray created works that contained fields of color applied with such varied unconventional techniques as pouring, staining, and sponging paint onto the surface of his canvases. Next he added certain gestural marks that had their root source in Chinese calligraphy and other ancient archaeological signs which can be seen in many of his works.Gray was inspired and greatly influenced in the 1960's by such fellow contemporary American abstract expressionist artists as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler. As a result of these artistic influences he began to produce large paintings which combined expanses of pure color and spontaneous calligraphic gestures to create lyrical abstract compositions. The American artist and iconic gallery owner Betty Parsons described Gray as "a painter who jumped the romantic fence into an ancient field of signs and symbols."
Over the course of an artistic career that spanned more than fifty years Cleve Gray produced a prodigious, varied, and inspiring body of work that bears testimony to a brilliant mind that continuously challenged his own creative processes as well as the world around him. In many ways Gray was literally "born to paint". Fascinated with color at age six he won a prize for a watercolor of his mother seated at the piano in the living room of their two floor apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. Following graduation from Phillips Andover Academy Gray was initially bent on studying art in Europe but chose instead to attend Princeton University at the request of his father. At Princeton the young artist studied history of art and philosophy and was first exposed to the abstract expressionist movement as well as to both Chinese and Japanese art. All these disciplines would have a profound effect on the young artist and his later work. Gray graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Princeton; his thesis on Yuan Dynasty landscape painting is used as a teaching tool even to this day.
Admired for his large-scale, vividly colorful, and lyrically gestural abstract works, Cleve Gray was inspired and influenced by such iconic giants of Abstract Expressionism as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Helen Frankenthaler. Gray produced a number of these large paintings using a variety of applications such as pouring, staining, sponging, and other nonconventional methods to create such compositions as Embrace that combines great expanses of pure color and spontaneous
Potentially Cleve Gray's most important and compelling work entitled Embrace highlights the artist's love of Chinese calligraphy within the context of modern Abstract Expressionism. His carefully articulated and softly vibrating fields of color beneath a large gestural symbol that is seemingly suspended weightlessly creates an infinitely vast sea of endless color and space that transcends the physical limitations of the canvas. In this painting Gray succeeded in gracefully resolving a conundrum of opposites -- transparent and opaque, light and dark, amorphous and defined. The whirling, spinning, weaving motion of such a symbol has become in this work the axis upon which an elegant calligraphic form revolves. Gray has thus contrasted the labor-intensive layering of the canvas with the expressionist forms created more spontaneously in contrasting colors. The raw energy Gray employed in creating this work coupled with the meticulous intellectual planning that preceded its actual execution has resulted in a complex yet gracefully harmonious work.
Estate of the Artist