THE ART OF LIGHT AND SPACE                                                                  

July 15 - Sept 2, 2019 


Barbara Prey Projects is proud to present a new exhibition: The Art of Light and Space, featuring recent paintings by internationally celebrated artist Barbara Ernst Prey, July 15 - September 2.

The title references ongoing exhibitions featuring Prey’s work - NASA ART 60 Years - on display at the Space Center in Houston, with her commissioned painting, The International Space Station.  She is the only female commissioned four times for NASA’s renowned art collection. Her NASA commissions documenting space history both broadened her perspective universally, and provided reflection on our place in the cosmos.  Back on earth, Prey is also an expert in depicting vast interior spaces. MASS MoCA (The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) commissioned her to create the world’s largest known watercolor painting (8 by 15 feet) for its new Building 6, where the work is prominently displayed in “the prow.”

MASS MoCA just unveiled Building 6, a massive addition of 130,000 square feet of exhibition space, and to inaugurate the new wing, more than a dozen exhibitions by a powerful array of blue chip artists are on display, one of which is something of a meta-show. Barbara Ernst Prey‘s Building 6 Portrait: Interior consists of a singular work—a giant, framed, 8′ x 15′ watercolor painting depicting the pre-renovation version of the same space the piece is housed in.                                                                                           —VICE Creators

The Art of Light and Space also stands in loose reference to Prey's concurrent exhibition at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA (Borrowed Light, May 10 to November 11, 2019).  A core of the Hancock Shaker Village’s exhibition program is to invite well-known contemporary artists to visit and reinterpret the space and ethos of the Shakers.

The large watercolors included in The Art of Light and Space reference the importance of nature in an age of fast-paced social media technology, and invite the viewer to pause, put down the cellphone, and look - look at the rich colors, and the layering of deep hues, vividly reminding us of these spectacular color combinations from nature 

Prey’s aesthetic vision is influenced by her natural and man-made surroundings, as well as her scholarly background in art-history, memory, and keen observation of her environs - both intellectually and emotionally. 

Her painting “Handmade” not only celebrates the simplicity of the handmade but draws the viewer into the world of color with the strong abstract blue of the wateragainst the white boat, allowing for the natural shade of the paper.  “Spindles,” a series of Shaker threads, focuses on color and simplicity of design - while still utilitarian.

Handmade , 2018, Watercolor, 28x40 inches

Handmade, 2018, Watercolor, 28x40 inches


This exhibition features works that mine a uniquely American tenor with a relationship between narrative and abstract, creating a tension that is both serene and unnerving. Her dialogue with color drove Prey to develop groundbreaking, intricate layering techniques.  Beginning with marks on paper, and then built up through her evocativeuse of color and dozens of thin washes, often incorporating parts of her surrounds  - water, soil, crushed shells, paint chips from a former factory building add distinctive character to her work. 

The Art of Light and Space considers Prey's distinct perspective as a 21st century female artist, revising the male dominated art-historical watercolor tradition, as she explores the depth of the American landscape and American identity. 

Barbara Prey, (American, b. 1957 in New York) is a contemporary painter, most recently commissioned by MASS MoCA to create the largest known watercolor painting  (8 by 15 feet) for their new building. Prey’s work also resides in the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Historical Society, and the permanent collection of the White House, where she is one of just two living female artists represented.

Prey has served for the past ten years as the sole visual artist on the U.S. President-appointed National Council on the Arts, the advisory board to the National Endowment for the Arts. Artists are appointed for their contributions and recognition in American Art. In 2003, her painting of the Diplomatic Reception Room was featured on the White House Christmas card, and dozens of her artworks have been commissioned by other government agencies and institutions, including four by NASA. Tapped annually for the U.S. Art in Embassies program, Prey’s work has been on display in over one hundred U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, including those in Paris, Hong Kong, London and Madrid. Her painting Gallantly Streaming is currently selected for exhibit in the lobby of the U.S. Mission to the U.N.  Prey has received numerous institutional accolades, including a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the New York State Senate’s “Women of Distinction” Award.

Prey earned a Bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a Master’s degree from Harvard University, subsequently receiving a Fulbright scholarship in Baroque art and architecture. Prey is an adjunct faculty member at Williams College. She has studios in New York, Massachusetts, and Maine.

Channeled Light , 2019, Watercolor on paper, 38.5 x 58.5 inches

Channeled Light, 2019, Watercolor on paper, 38.5 x 58.5 inches