Joe Ray's "US"

Joe Ray, US, 1993

LACMA's new installation of modern art is showing Joe Ray's US (1993). The mixed-media painting continues the tradition of Watts-era California Assemblage (Ray's flag is partly made from kente cloth), but it's nearly three decades later, having been created in reaction to the Rodney King beating. Together with another King-themed work, Chris Burden's L.A.P.D. Uniforms (1993), US closes out the installation's survey of a tumultuous century.

Ray's title, punning on the American experiment and a clubby first-person pronoun, predates the similar wordplay of the 2019 Jordan Peele film.

US is one of several new acquisitions revisiting L.A. artists that LACMA showed early in their careers. Ray won a LACMA Young Talent Award in 1972. US was offered at Diane Rosenstein Gallery in 2020 and was purchased with funds from the Modern and Contemporary Art Council and Terri and Michael Smooke.