Joe Ray (b. 1944) grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana. In high school he received advanced education in Industrial Metal work, Visual Fine Arts, Music (trombone, marching band, and orchestra). He studied Fine Arts at the University of Southwestern, Louisiana, Lafayette in 1962. Before he turned twenty, Ray was on a bus bound for the West Coast and arrived in Los Angeles in 1963, when what was soon to become a thriving art scene was in its infancy. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served from 1965 to 1967. He received his B.A in Fine Arts from CalArts in 1973. He has been included in numerous exhibitions at venues such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles ; Jack Tilton, New York; Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Eileen Harris Norton's, The Leimert Project; Santa Monica Museum of Art, California; his work was featured in INCOGNITO in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
In the mid-1960s, he began casting with resin, a new material for artists that, along with light, came to define southern California’s Light and Space movement. In 1970, he enrolled at the newly established California Institute of the Arts, where, influenced by Alan Kaprow and Nam June Paik, he began to experiment with performance and video art. Ray’s work has never been confined to a specific medium or style and has shifted between representation and abstraction. His 1969 cast-resin sculpture New Eye clearly situates him within Walter Hopps and Ed Kienholz’s Ferus Gallery scene, while its black and white tubes point to issues of racial segregation and inequality in Los Angeles and to another version of the LA art world: one that was situated below Interstate 10 around Leimert Park and revolved around David Hammons and the Brockman Gallery.
The works featured in Prospect.3 were completed in 1993, just a year after the riots that were sparked by the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers of assault and excessive force against Rodney King. The paintings probe issues of identity and racial justice. While an artist of the previous generation, Betye Saar, cited the familiar image of Aunt Jemima in order to reverse its values, Ray shatters the term “spade” as a racist epithet by demonstrating its fluidity and arbitrary nature—that is, by defamiliarizing it, as Hammons has also done. While the visually appealing works undermine negative stereotypes, they simultaneously, via gestures to Africa (textiles and masks) and to America (the flag), explore ideas about African American belonging.