Vunkbaum is a portmanteau combining the names of Ray Vunk and Barry Buxbaum, two process-oriented Memphis artists whose symbol-laden work is complementary but stylistically dissimilar. Buxbaum loves negative space, texture, and surfaces. Layers of milky wax give his illustrative encaustic paintings depth. Vunk prefers busy collages that are flat, neat, hard-edged, and heavily graphic. "Putting all of that together creates this really interesting tension," Buxbaum says.
There's another thing the artists' share: a deep appreciation of one another's work. "I'm one of Ray's biggest fans," Buxbaum says. "We'd just never thought of collaborating before," Vunk answers. Buxbaum, again: "Because our styles are so different." The sentence-completing artists were friends at the University of Memphis in the '90s, but had fallen out of touch for years. Shortly after reconnecting they acquired a large board and set out to see what kind of art they might make together.
Two Heads, is the title of Vunkbaum's first jointly created multimedia work and the name of an exhibit of work by both artists opening at Jay Etkin gallery Friday, May 6th and on display through June 4th. The nine-piece show features four works each by Vunk and Buxbaum. The one large collaborative piece combines encaustic, acrylic, charcoal, and collage to depict a mad tumble of carousel horses, deer heads, mermaids, tiny skeleton kings, churches falling through space, and sad little row houses. "So you can really see the whole story," Buxbaum says.