Ray Donarski (1935 - 1996)
Oil on canvas
17 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches
Signed, dated and inscribed verso: ‘Swing’ / Ray Donarski / 2/66 / 17 ½ x 17 ½ / For Mr. & Mrs. Passerman / New York 1966
Ray Donarski was one of a group of artists in New York known as the Bowery Boys during the early sixties. The group included Eva Hesse, Robert Mangold, Jack Youngerman, and Robert Rauschenberg among others. He is mentioned in several of art critic Lucy Lippard's articles on New York conceptual artists and Bowery Boy artists of that period.
Donarski was a close friend of artist James Rosenquist. They had studied together at the Art Students League in New York. In January of 1962 Donarski helped Rosenquist set up his first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery in New York. In his book, Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art, Rosenquist recalls sitting on the floor with Donarski before opening night wondering if anyone would show up. The show sold out before it opened.
When Rosenquist was broke and homeless in 1955 his friend Donarski told him he knew of a great job as a chauffeur and bartender for some very wealthy people. They went up to see them and split the job. Rosenquist took it for a year, and after a year, he gave it to Donarski. In an interview with Rosenquist he said “I lived in the lap of luxury with very little money, and was a chauffeur bopping around in a ’56 Lincoln town car and a ’56 Lincoln convertible with big fins on the car (laughs), great big fins. I did that for a year and then transferred into the International Sign Painters.”
Donarski married Mary Lou Storm and had two children. He became known as the “American in Luxembourg”, dividing his time between New York and summers in Luxembourg, where he was represented by Galerie Paul Bruck and Galerie Horn. He also exhibited at the Westport Gallery in Connecticut during the early 1980’s. An example of his work can be found in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.