Monoliths as if made of lava and concrete, sculptures from an angry god that would have ended up destroying its own creation, columns of a temple found in a post-apocalyptic era: the landscape composed by Ray Meeker is a metropolis crystallised by a cataclysm, the remains of a monument to an inevitable tragedy.
Fire and Ice, the title of the exhibition, refers to the poem of the same name by Robert Frost opens with:
“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.”
Frost’s poem speaks about love and hate, Ray about care and neglect, action and reaction. Of consequences of human behavior towards his habitat. The world is on fire and the ice is melting. In 1970, when Ray Meeker graduates in ceramics from the University of Southern California, global warming was not yet in the vocabulary of environmental degradation, renewable energy in its infancy. Ray says, “I was looking at the momentum of consumerism (desire certainly), of over production, and the concomitant pollution. That momentum, was expressed in fired clay by huge—full-sized—excavator buckets stenciled with the continents of the earth; buckets that became the planet itself.”
Born in New York in 1944, he is two years old when his family moves to the suburbs of Los Angeles, at the time one of the most polluted cities in the USA. With his father, who takes him on long treks in Californian valleys, he develops a profound appreciation of nature, far from the smog-choked city of LA.
Fire and Ice is composed of sculptures of diverse dimensions, the smallest seem like meteorite fragments or cooled down lava, the larger like headstones, manifestly born of a human matrix and branded with fragments of inscriptions from a red hot iron, in different languages and alphabets.
One of them, “The American lifestyle is not up for negotiations.”, expresses the US position on climate change at the Rio Conference in 1993, which Ray had translated into Hindi and Chinese. But our mother Earth doesn’t negotiate, she reacts – adds Ray.
An inscription that is now part of our collective unconscious is the first verse of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” The broken egg is the Earth.
Fire and Ice is a synthesis, a point of equilibrium and extreme identification between matter itself, the artist, and his subject, that we find in the perfect ambiguity of textures capable of evoking millennial stones, petrified or charred wood, products of industrial civilizations, steel or concrete, like the agglomeration of stratified shapes, where one can recognize prehistoric bones, machines parts, and fragments of phrases embossed as a testimony, a warning:
The future of the Earth is not negotiable, sculpted in ice, engraved by fire.
Dominique Jacques / Centre d’Art Citadines, January 2021