Feb 19: Ruby Ray “First Wave Punk Photography” at La Luz

Ruby Ray
First Wave Punk Photography

February 19 – 28, 2010
Reception for the artist: Friday, February 19, 2010, 8pm – 11pm

La Luz de Jesus Gallery

4633 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323-666-7667 Fax: 323-663-0243

Friends, collectors, and strangers know Ruby Ray’s work –even when they don’t. Ruby Ray’s iconic portrait of Beat author / Punk Avatar William S. Burroughs’ vibing, serene, Interzone menace can be seen on MySpace.  Her photo of late punk rock legend Darby Crash is the cover of Darby biography Lexicon Devil. Other photos appear in magazines, on book covers, album covers, posters. Her punk rock photography pops up uncredited on fansites and music history websites. Ruby Rays’s esoteric studies and close collaboration with musicians and artists helped spawn a current that became trance music.

Photographer, artist, and journalist Ruby Ray entered the shock wave that was the punk rock underground in 1977. Ruby became a member of seminal San Francisco punk culture magazine, Search & Destroy, documenting and fostering the emergent scene.  When Ruby criss-crossed continents on a trip to London and Egypt, S&D’s in-your-face music and culture inflammation went global. Ruby ran London-based Rough Trade Records’ San Francisco store, and sheltered their traveling bands from England.  In 1980, she co-founded with v.vale the more deeply focused alter-culture publication RE/Search magazine. During this first San Francisco era, the RE/Search studio on Romolo Street in San Francisco’s North Beach became an international locus of cross-pollination, one of those places where artists feel the freedom and compulsion to redefine themselves and their genres.

An early multi-media artist, Ruby found inspiration in haunted post-industrial cityscapes, insect wings, and the golden thread of the mystic. Investigations compelled her to lie in the sarcophagus of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh…read widely…decipher hieroglyphs…work with a Gurdjieff group.  Meeting up with industrial music mavens Factrix, she added live, multi-image projections to the influential industrial band’s performances. In the first exhibition of her original anti-art, Nart, shown in 1980 at San Francisco’s Target Video, Ruby would project new work in a new medium: stereo slides. That same summer she helped create the flaming “debutante ball” summer solstice celebration, held under a freeway near the railroad tracks, and shut down by police.

In the early 80’s, Ruby Ray migrated again, becoming part of the next international art explosion –New York City’s East Village. In the East Village, she exhibited photographs and continued experiments with live, multimedia projections of her growing body of work. Joining with musical collaborators to create the group Saqqara Dogs, Ruby’s lightshows mixed her multi-image photography with collaged found materials. Investigating how altered states are evoked with colors, symbols, and sonic instigators, the Saqqara Dogs performance introduced a novel music and visual experience fans claimed generated powerful synesthesia. Saqqara Dogs combined psychedelia with Middle Eastern rhythms to produce a new music event which later morphed into rave culture.  While SDs’ hallucinogenic music and visual onslaught was presented in dives and museums across the U.S., the band gained a notorious fan. In 1987, Andy Warhol featured an interview and performance of the group on his New York-based TV series, Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes.

After the birth of her son in 1988, Ruby took sabbatical for subtle energy and consciousness studies, learning the healing arts.  She returned to photography with a trip to the Indian ruins of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, and had her first solo exhibit in 2004.

For those who lived through it, for musicians and musicologists, culture critics, anthropologists and anyone who takes their inspiration with a non-sterile, extra-pointy edge, Ruby Ray is completing her photographic memoir of First Wave punk rock in California. The collection of 250 images reveals the raw, amazing California punk scene, 1977-1981. And now, new large digital photo works and a visual blog, Songs of Nart, are in progress. Ruby Ray sustains her original-issue profile:  high-functioning cultural enzyme who shows us how to keep surprising ourselves with non-virtual living.  She continues her search for mind altering images.

-Debra Xit 2008

Written by Dionysus Records