Raymond Saunders USA, b. 1934


"If we could speak it, we would not paint it."

—Raymond Saunders

Raymond Saunders first emerged as an influential abstract artist in the 1950s. His practice includes painting, collage, assemblage, sculpture and drawing. He incorporates found objects, magazine photographs, chalk drawings, as well as traditional paints that are often dripped, splattered and clumped onto the surface.


The visual spaces in Saunders compositions are layered and highly emotive, conveying a sense of energy and tension. The imagery suggests a world hinging on the border between life and death, or chaos and control.


Abstraction is a key tool for Saunders, though figures, numbers and text frequently appear in the work. A dissonance arises from this interplay, inviting viewers to construct their own stories around the visual cacophony Saunders masterfully constructs.


About the process of painting, Saunders has said, “for the one thing that someone sees, there are innumerable things that they never see.”


Saunders was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and earned a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He later studied at the Barnes Foundation, and earned a BFA from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1960. He earned an MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA, where he still lives and works today. He has been teaching art since 1968, and has held faculty positions at California State University, Hayward and is currently a professor of painting at California College of the Arts in Oakland. Saunders’ work has been the subject of widespread critical recognition, and has been exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions at such institutions as San Francisco Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Seattle Art Museum; and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among many others.