The Artist: Ron Laboray

Painting as a conceptual object in a Metamodernist period


One of the best aspects about making art today is the loss of a master narrative and the ability to build a new narrative, many new narratives. There is a freedom to create any discourse you wish, in any method or form one desires. I choose to make works that combine a certain level of conceptual rigor, a lighthearted humor, and the beauty of a well-crafted object. These paintings oscillate between concepts in abstract mapping, and photographic representation. Abstraction or photographic representation, here, are not placed in opposition to each other, but are related through actual, perceptual, and procedural distances. The paintings, as historical documents, attempt to archive common cultural effects and a momentary worldview. This practice reflects on the ability of humans to define identity and reality though sharing interpretation and invention.


Archaeology experience

My studio practice is conceptually driven from my experiences as an artist and archaeologist.  I make paintings, which are maps, or chart based on or follows scientific rules to organize abstract data. Within archaeology, much of the important knowledge is gained through the detritus of past culture.  The work focuses on similar type of worthless and random material for subject matter; our pop culture, junk mail, and spectacle.



“I found myself in the position of changing an actual public map. I was working as an archaeologist in a research program. This particular day a colleague and I were researching the prehistoric mound culture of this region. Using historical maps as well as written accounts we were certain that we had stumbled upon a considerably large mound that had yet to be recorded or named. Most large mounds have been recorded for nearly a century. We visited the site, which, to the untrained eye, is nothing more than a red brick house on a rise. Even with our prior knowledge, the mound was nearly indiscernible. There was little left of the ancient earthwork; our culture was eclipsing the past. A very old man home occupied the little brick. While explaining the house was something of an heirloom (passed down through three generations), he began to unzip an old shaving case. He presented my colleague with a ground greenstone celt and from the exact period, which confirmed our mound suspicions. The ax head was polished smooth from use, measuring roughly eighteen centimeters and its weight was greater than one might imagine. It had been found not ten feet from the house. Later in the day came a surface survey. Combing the ground looking for artifacts, I found the other important factor that would ultimately augment the map. I bent to retrieve the small shard of sand tempered pottery, amazed to find it at the surface, even after eight hundred years. We finalized our analysis, collecting core samples from the mound; the map could now receive its alteration. In the end, we named the mound after the very old man. I had a hand in changing many more maps that year and every time I had a special feeling I could see the effect of many cultures on the same place. I could measure and represent it. I could change the perception of history.”

Ron Laboray




The survey

I embrace science for a more accurate representation, a reduction of subjectivity and increase specificity.  The tactic is to employ appropriated “scientific” and sometimes Pseudo-scientific methods and rules. Cartographers and scientists use their training to create factual interpretations. Factual representations have always been questioned in painting because of the subjectivity involved in the artist’s decisions. The artist’s decisions lie between the subject and the result becoming more of an opinion. Science (the process) is given credence as the scientist acts as facilitator. My distance in process is a measure to enforce a similar unbiased result. For example, The Law of Superposition holds that what comes first is on bottom. This “rule” allows me to avoid the decisions about formal appearance and helps organize paint application. The fact that the plastic paint is specifically measured and poured through funnels and constructed jigs is another conceptual limitation on personal influence.

Common example of an archaeological feature with a profile wall cut.  A feature is a place where something has happened in the past, usually disturbing the land.  A feature may be a fire or trash pit, a burial or a home, each telling us something about those who made the feature.

The profile/ Law of Super Positioning / The Law Original Horizontality


My painting and drawing processes involve employing all technologies: high and low. Jigs are fashioned to repeat tasks, the computer is used to design and inform, and digital platforms and projections force end user interactivity. Below are examples of how I utilize the profile and the Law of Superposition.  The Law of Superposition hold that what come first is on bottom.  In this case, what is closest to the ground. The features, mass culture references, are then represented from a birds eye view and the x,y,z axis.

Diagram demonstrating Laboray’s conceptual application of the Law of Superposition.

                                                         Batman Superman Team Up #3- 2000 -and the jig which assist in the produced.

                            The colors of Batman and Superman were deposited onto the actual locations of cities named Gotham and Metropolis

       The History of Cartoon Icons – 2011- Dimensions variable.

The base is airbrushed like dry cracked earth representing a moment of origin where nothing existed prior.  Using the Law of Superposition one can read the stack from bottom to top; Steam Boat Willy, Mickey Mouse, and then Hello Kitty.  This organization matches up with the time the characters first appear in popular culture.

                                                                                        The General Lee Over General Lee 2010 15.5x13x8''

The two profiles are stacked in regards to the time each first appeared in culture.  The bottom profile is a representation of the black and white image of the American Civil War’s General Lee and the top profile represents the car of the same name in the 1980’s television program “The Dukes of Hazard”.  The surface image is the county map of Georgia reveling the location of Hazard County marked with a Confederate flag, which also appeared on top of the television car.

Popular science

Laboray believes these locations, events, and ideas will be the research points for future social scientists. His innocuous aspects and random samples of pop culture reveal coded beliefs and attitudes in respect to our time.


Social concerns

Laboray’s paintings are in the form of maps and charts and attempt to archive cultural effect. Popular culture disseminates information that leads us to believe Metropolis and Gotham are the homes of Superheroes. Through similar means, we come to see any town bearing the name of Springfield as a potential residence of The Simpsons. Many locations enjoy a simultaneous existence in both fiction and reality. Beliefs generated by invented identities influence our perception of “the real”. Imagined identity can also be imposed on place through reoccurring phenomena like the Super Bowl, World Fairs, or a papal visit. These events, though short lived and migrant, create an atmosphere of close connection and in this, the chosen locations will share in the legacy and identity that is lent through hosting these various spectacles.


Material identity

Scientists often date or identify an artifact by how its made and the material used in its production.  Shiny and plastic like their subject of pop culture, the materials used in the paintings are metaphorically linked to the subject and to current cultural conditions. Plastic represents not only the nature of the ever-changing pop phenomena but also corporate ownership and the virtual world. The slick presence of the automobile urethane and surfboard resin is representative of the nature of the event itself. The painted surface (the dimensions of a flat screen television or a more scientific square) is actually an aluminum panel sold commercially as signboard, teasing the notion that painting and science are connected as systems of signs.

All Who Won and Loss the Indianapolis 500 in 2003 using the Law of Superposition – 24x36” -2004

Tradition of reveling the unknown

“Our experimentations and meditations, on occasion, come together with the hand to manifest something crucial to our time.  This practice is not one of illusion but one of fact and purpose.  Our intentions are specific and our processes imperative and personal. The artist, like any magician or spiritualist, entertains through awe, driven by the motivation that the last moment of prestidigitation can be superseded by yet another.  The audience is then rewarded by this daily determination, with an object or moment of contemplation and faith, which holds the aura that quenches the cult of the original. My archive then is built on the faith that they will have future importance for both science and art by visually quantifying and measuring this time.”  -Ron Laboray


Map making/expressions and types

Mapping has always included biases.  Color, font, scale and information can be affected by what the mapmaker deems culturally and politically important. The map will also reflect the technologies and information available to the culture at the time the map was made.  The map itself becomes a significant object of study beyond the information it presents.


Human interconnection and posterity

Maps can demonstrate the interconnection that occurs from the spread of these cultural concepts.  Trade routs, migration patterns, language, religion, artistic style and food preparation are some examples of how we understand the spread of a culture.

All the McDonald Restaurants on Earth in 2004 - 2004         Barbie’s Dream Globe, everywhere Barbie is sold.  - 2004

Cultural reflection

Superheroes, cartoons, sporting events, and vacation are ready made signs that handle complex universal ideas such as “truth” or "the real". Superman determines what is good and what is evil, not allowing religion or society to determine these things for him. He uses a reason that is independent of the modern values of society or religion. The Simpson family represents the good and bad in the everyman, while testing the newest cultural morals and beliefs. Vacations, specifically camping, condone the separation of nature from culture. This promotes the use of ideas such as natural and synthetic, real and unreal. This works to the same degree with theme parks; an intentional false reality in an actual location. Television transmits "live" or "true" representations, which of course are not live but synthesized; this increases our tolerance for mediated and corporately funded truths that further define reality.

Below are two examples of Laboray’s paintings of famous images that represent “locations” that are shared and that are filled with the cultural importance of the “hero”.

Based on a famous scene in the film Star Wars," These aren't the droids you're looking for."- 2011, where the hero outwits his adversary.

An American Painting -2010-  Based on Washington Crossing the Delaware by artist 

 Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze the profiled painting is filled with culture’s need for the hero to overcome adversity with bravery and moral values.

                                                                                         The Great Wall of Aquaman- 2005 - colored pencil on paper 


Laboray’s drawings are often models for the idea of accumulated exposure to these popular icons. From the micro to macro the re-exposure to these ideas add up to monumental amounts and connect us. The models are represented in the forms of a great wall, great piles, or even an entire world. The poetics of “A World of Charlie Browns” unites all of us though the idea of the born looser. Science is also a player in the structure of the drawings. Color is arranged through the scientific Law of Superposition and many of the forms like the frog egg shape of “Kermits Over Piggy”.

                                                                                       Kermits over Piggy- 2005- pastel on paper 48x56”

Drawing and Time:


“Matter of Fact Drawings”


My current project “Little Richard’s Almanac” contains a series of drawing mirroring the mixed-up and rearranged condition of mass culture. This series “Matter of Fact” drawings utilizes found data from internet searches, satellite television channel guides, and random information obtained through advertising, social other public media, I see the drawings as historical documents recording current cultural conditions and archiving information for future social scientists and art historians.


These drawings represent points along a time lines that include common facts and known histories, science, collections describing our shared world, invented fictions and cultural myths, which compel hope and demonstrate important values.


The images within the drawings originate from photographic and painted images of important historical moments, scientific illustrations, pop culture elements like comic books, television, advertising and film, and visual information supporting myths, and conspiracy.


These pen and ink drawings operate using appropriated laws from science like “The Law of Superposition” which is a way to tell geological time.  The older information, which came first in time, is on bottom and the newer more recent information is on top. Drawing traditions also lend to deciphering the time lines. Clarity and overlap are used in creating a since of time through distance, detail and sharpness.


In the end, the drawings frame a narrative of humanity and demonstrate the information and ideas that are current and accessible to most everyone. The drawings include those things we have in common like origins and final or prime examples, and the ideas, hopes and beliefs we share within myths, religion, science, and our idea of place and self.

From the point of Archaic tools, the future includes the gun that killed Archduke Ferdinand and the first image of Mickey Mouse. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016

Obscured by a Soviet chart of UFO s the first explosion of an atomic bomb and the last meeting between Lee and Jackson are joined using the Law of Superposition. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016

The last man on the Moon and the oldest icon of the first pope separated by all the state flowers of the United States. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016

With an image of the last battle of the French and Indian War on the horizon, the first image of Mars form Mars is obscured by examples of German butterflies. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016

In Conclusion

The work of Ron Laboray has been exhibited in museums, special project spaces, and galleries in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Memphis, St. Louis , Budapest, Taiwan, Ireland and Japan.  Laboray's art merges abstract painting and drawing with a pseudoscientific method to create a growing visual archive of popular culture. His method appropriates existing laws found in science, like the Law of Superposition, and invents strategies like the Law of Temporal Clarity to assist in his making process. The materials and forms he uses include poured plastic, sprayed auto urethane on aluminum, interactive animations and films made with robots., synthetic felt and fabrics.  He sees these mediums and processes tied metaphorically to popular culture. In his work, the visual language of abstraction supports a color-coded archive of data revealing the identity of place and memory based on globalized mass culture elements like television, movies, comic books, fast food logos and junk mail advertising and Internet search engines.




Ron Laboray lets data drive his abstractions.

May 13, 2005|By Alan G. Artner, Chicago Tribune art critic


Abstract painting is not what it once was. Long thought a way to approach the sublime, abstraction is now just another mundane decision for an artist, and is a style that many young practitioners do not pursue from aesthetic considerations. Ron Laboray's paintings at the Peter Miller Gallery exemplify this tendency. Appearing like a series of biomorphic shapes and narrow stripes that appeal on the basis of sensation or emotion, they nonetheless strive toward something different. The artist writes, "My paintings are in the form of maps and charts and attempt to archive cultural effect." The series titled "Color and Race Statistics" uses official data from the Indianapolis 500 to determine the colors and their arrangement.

In another series, what Laboray calls "The Law of Superimposition" determines the order in which colors are applied.

The artist does, in fact, make aesthetic decisions regarding the forms of each painting, but generally he avoids them as if they were inferior to what data from the real world dictate. Even in the ways his paint is applied -- it is sprayed or mechanically poured -- Laboray wants to get away from personal judgments involving emotion in relation to a sense of beauty.  Abstract painting here, then, is a record of verifiable occurrences that have been translated into a pictorial language. If the translation happens to stimulate the eye, fine.

If it does not, there is always the odd data being translated, which presumably will engage the mind



ETSU University News – Slocumb Gallery presents Ron Laboray’s “At Play in the Fields of Our Stuff”  Sept. 9th 2016


All The Art Spring 2016 –The Visual Arts Quarterly of St. Louis - -p.7 -Everywhere and Elsewhere II- Sarah Weinman


All The Arts Fall 2015– The Visual Arts Quarterly of St. Louis p.6, – How I Felt About the Last Drop of Charlie Brown.  Margaret Keller


Mountain Express - Aug.19 2015 State of the Arts: The 2nd Terrain Biennial comes to Asheville by Alli Marshall


Chicago Tribune-Tiny, mighty The Suburban is soon to be no more- May 15 2015 by Christopher Borrelli 


Dickson Beal  A Mindful Living Journal – Mar 10 2014


Ted Wight’s St. Louis Style , Mar 9 2014 -


Artslant Los Angeles – The Slant – Reviews and Picks- Sandra Vista interview with Mary Anna Pomonis (Curator of Sanctified) 5/15/2013 

Art Week LA -Sanctified: Spirituality in Contemporary Art Mon, Feb 04, 2013

East Los Angeles Campus News - Vincent Price Art Museum opens art  allery ‘Sanctified’ - By Jesus Figueroa


New American Painting 100 Juried Exhibition in Print– June/July 2012 Vol 7 Issue 3      p 72 – 75   ISSN 1066-2235



Daum Museum of Contemporary Art– J A Quirky Summer Smorgasbord of Missouri Arts - Conversations between disparate styles uly 2012 -Missouri Arts Council, a state agency and division of the Department of Economic Development.


ArtWeek LA – Art Diary –Fri, Nov 25, 2011 By Tracey Harnish  

St Louis Magazine – Cameo: A Peek into the Studio of Ron Laboray- November 2010 – by Hesse Caplinger

Review Magazine  Kansas City– July 2008- St. Louis Painting at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art


Art in America - April 2006 - review "Ron Laboray at UMSL St Louis" MEL



Chicago Tribune - May 13 2005- "Ron Laboray Lets Data Drive His

Abstractions" On the Map - Alan Artner


Chicago Sun-Times - February 2, 2001 Gallery Glance by Margaret Hawkins


St. Louis Post Dispatch - February 11, 2001 Arts and Entertainment by Jeff Daniels


West End- Clayton Word - February 22, 2001 Arts and Entertainment by Jill Downen


New Art Examiner -May/June, 2001 Vol.28 # 8/9 Chicago'sWest Loop Gate by

Lori Waxman


Art Papers Magazine - May/June, 2001 Vol.25.3 Reviews Central - St. Louis by Jeffrey Huges


New Art Examiner - July/August, 2001 Vol.29 #10 Reviews Missouri

-Transpolyblu- by Debra Riley Parr



Solo projects:

Nov 2018 - Whirled Pictures- works of Ron Laboray at the Dutch Academy of Art and Design AKV/St.Joost Master Institute of Avans Hogeschool Netherlands.


Mar 2018 – Globalization, Time and the Position of the Artist -  Fulbright collaboration- installation at Karoli Gaspar University/ Phycology Building Mural Budapest Hungary : Lecture held at the Hungarian Academy of Science in Budapest


Spt 2016 – “At Play in the Fields of Our Stuff” – Slocumb Galleries at Eastern Tennessee University, Johnson City TN


May 2015- “How I felt about showing at the Suburban.” - The Suburban –Oak Park Chicago IL


Mar 2014- “At Play in the Fields of Our Stuff”– Hoffman La Chance, St Louis MO


Jan 2012  Surveying Imaginationland – the Art Museum at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee NC.


Jan. 2010  A Matter of Distance- Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago IL.


April 2007 Syndication - Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago IL.

Mar. 2006 Keeping Score - Philip Slein Gallery St. Louis MO.

Aug 2005 After the C.E.- University of Missouri St. Louis MO.

May 2005 Color and Race Statistics, Peter Miller Gallery Chicago IL.

Spt. 2003 Extending the Science - Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago IL

Jan. 2001 Mapping Pop - Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago IL

May 2000 Media Arts Technology Drink Exchange - computer animation on 12 screen video monitor wall. Media Arts, Washington Ave. St.Louis MO

Feb. 2000 One Hour of Spontaneous Beauty: Digital Rain- computer animated digital projection at Media Arts, Washington & Tucker,St. Louis MO.

June 1999 Mapping.-, Washington University Film Board, St. Louis MO.

May 1996 Where am I?-The Main Street Gallery, Champaign IL.

Mch. 1993 Plastic Nature -6th Floor Gallery, St. Louis MO.

July 1992 American Gold -Midtown Art Center, St. Louis MO.

Jan. 1991 The Ump is Nuts - Utopian Loft Gallery, St. Louis MO.


Other selected exhibition:

Jan 2018 – Blown In - Gallery 126 Galway Ireland

Dec 2016 – Blue and Orange- CB-1 Gallery, Los Angeles CA

Jul 2016 - Southern Draw – Gallery 474, Asheville NC

Jan 2016 – Everywhere and Elsewhere II - Meramec Gallery of Contemporary Art – St Louis Community College Meramec

Dec  2014 3-7  Art Miami Aqua Art Miami – Hoffman laChance Miami FL

Dec 2013 4-8 Art Miami Aqua Art Miami – Hoffman LaChance Miami FL

Oct. 2013  Zombie-Hoffman-LaChance Contemporary St. Louis. Mo

Feb 2013 Sanctified – Vincent Price Art Museum-Monterey Park, Los Angeles CA

Oct 2011Personally Abstract- JK Gallery-Los Angeles CA.

Jan 2011 ArtLab – Metropolitan Gallery, St Louis, MO

Jul- 2010 Group exhibition – Peter Miller Gallery. Chicago, IL

Sept 2009 Breaking Forms SCC Multimedia Invitational - St Charles

Community College, St. Charles MO

Mar. 2009 The Gun Show - Space B Gallery New York, NY

Mar. 2008 Replica - Peter Miller Gallery Chicago, IL

June 2007 Daum Museum of Contemporary Art- Sadalia MO.

May 2005 at National Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative office in Tokyo, Japan

Oct 2004 Six Views of Abstraction- Regional Arts Commission St. Louis MO.

Jun. 2004 Dissemination - St Louis Community College Meramec - St. Louis MO.

Jun. 2004 Exposure 7-Mind Games - University of Missouri St.Louis Gallery210 - St. Louis MO.

May 2004 Chicago Exposition at Navy Pier - Peter Miller Gallery Chicago IL

Mar. 2004 Aerial - Raid Projects - Los Angeles CA.

Feb 2004 Cold Winter Show - Peter Miller Gallery - Chicago IL

Oct. 2003 A Social Affair - digital sketches collaboration project

-University of Memphis Art Museum, Memphis TN.

May 2002 Terra Incognita - Contemporary Art Museum - St. Louis MO.

Nov.2001 Three Day Weekend curated by Dave Muller - Mad Art, St Louis MO.

Jan.2001 Transpolyblu a Digital Exposition Elliot Smith Contemporary

Dec.2000 Geography- Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago IL.

Apr.2000 Saint Louis Invitational - Marshall Arts Center @ Delta Axis, Memphis TN.

Jan.2000 New Art From St. Louis - Illinois Wesleyan University, IL

     Artist lectures:

Visiting Artist-National Academy of Science, Budapest 2018

Visiting Artist - Eastern Tennessee State University Aug 2016

Visiting Artist - North Texas University Denton TX Sept 2015

Curators Lecture - Critology - the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University 2012

Visiting Artist - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL 2012

Artist Lecture,- Western Carolina University, Cullowhee NC 2011

Artist Lecture, - St. Louis Artist Guild St Louis MO. 2009