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RAYMOND SAA
at Craighead Green Gallery thru november 11  
by Todd Camplin

I found myself dropping into Craighead Green Gallery a few weeks back. They have several
artists whom they represent which I like to follow and I discover a few more from time to time.
This time I encountered the collage and paintings of Raymond Saa. He has shown at the
gallery about three other times in the past, but this time his work caught my attention.
I noticed it for the art historical connections, the raw color combinations, and a
few interesting flaws.
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Right off the bat, let’s mention Henri Matisse. This Modernist juggernaut took the last years of his
life with the creative endeavor of cutting pure colors and arranging the shapes. Raymond Saa
seems to come from this tradition, founded by Matisse, of collage color paper cutouts. Even
some of the Saa’s pieces remind me of Matisse’s tropical themed shapes that resembled leaves
or coral. Maybe it’s because Dallas has the Geometric and MADI Art Museum, but I can’t help
but think of artist Volf Roitman, along with a number of other geometric artists who seem to
relate to Saa’s work.
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When looking at these colorful shapes layered on top of each other, I was often distracted by
the lines of white thread sewn across the top. When the collage had the area at the top that
was white, it wasn’t very noticeable. In fact, for me, it worked pretty well in the white-topped
pieces. Only when these lines of white thread run across color are when I seem to cringe.
I understand that these pieces must be held together in a sturdy way. I think function and
form can be more harmonious. There were a few paintings in the show, which were interesting
as works on their own, except for maybe the unnecessary drips. Saa has such clean and
precise work that I was disappointed to see the drips. They kind of felt out of character.
I think the color choices are what attracted me the most to these pieces. Particularly PS201620,
which had a mashup of two blues, orange, red, black and white. His cut shapes were overlapping
rectangles which were further broken up visually by straight and organic lines. Some of the straight
lines changed direction. This implied that the lines were fanning out. As simple as these shapes
were, Saa made the piece feel smart, yet incredibly fun. Saa taps into that idea of the artist as a
child, while keeping things clean and precise. The piece PS201512 seems to invoke Matisse with
some of the shapes and colors, but the placement of clustered objects under an area of white
cutouts was all Saa. These artworks were able to hide a key issue I had with some of the other
collages. The noticeable sewn areas at the top.
PS201620 - Gouache Collage on Sewn Paper
36" x 30"
OC201703, Oil on Canvas
59.5" x 48"
PS201512 -  Gouache Collage on Sewn Paper
34" x 30"
OC201702 - Oil on Canvas
66.5" x 48.25"
But feel free to ignore my persnicketiness towards Raymond Saa’s work. Go see it yourself at
Craighead Green Gallery. The show will be up until November 11th along with the art by
Heather Gorham and Marci Crawford Harnden.