Rome Work is the title of 2023 Fellow Todd Gray’s exhibition at the gallery Vielmetter Los Angeles. The show features nine archival pigment prints placed in specially designed artist’s frames. As the title indicates, Gray made the pieces at the Academy during his Rome Prize Fellowship, from February to July 2023.
Gray incorporated sites in Rome in this show, which critiques the colonial power of the Roman Catholic Church. One can identify locations at Villa Medici in both Gorée Sienna | Medici Brown and Rome Work (Niobe and her Chirren). Other works depict the façades of Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and Chiesa della Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, as well as various frescoes and domed interiors photographed throughout Italy.
“In Rome Work,” the gallery tells us, “Gray has furthered his research to examine the Catholic Church’s mission in West Africa and how that enriched both the Church and powerful imperial elites.” This idea is manifested in Stairway to Heaven’s Hell (St. Anthony Slave Castle/Santa Maria Basilica), in which an oval frame situates a stairway entrance at Fort Saint Anthony in Ghana within a dome found in the Avila Chapel in Santa Maria in Trastevere. The juxtaposition creates “a visual puzzle that suggests a transcendent portal to heaven.”
The artist appears in three works, though his face is slathered with shaving cream. In When we opened our eyes we had the Bible and they had the Land #2, Grey places one of these self-portraits, which he took in 2005, onto a ceiling mural found in the Church of the Gesù in Palermo, Sicily.
Rome Work is on view in Los Angeles through January 13, 2024. The show is his first solo exhibition since three in 2021, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Connecticut, and David Lewis in New York. In addition to the Rome Prize, Gray received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Fine Arts in 2018 and completed a Rockefeller Foundation Residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy.