Charles Ray: Body Language

Charles Ray, American born 1953

from an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2022: Figure and Ground

 

 

 

Boy, painted fiberglass, steel, fabric and glass, 1992. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Whitney Museum of Art loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2022

 

 

 

 

Family Romance, 1993, painted fiberglass, hair.  Charles Ray, American born 1953. 

MOMA, NY loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

The title of this piece alludes to a 1909 essay by Sigmund Freud about intra-familial conflict.  It also refers to the abuse of the term ‘Family values’ by George Bush I. 

This piece, which the museum notes ‘parodies the archetype of the hetero-normative family’, points to the bizarre, emotionally upside-down familial world which is more common than we would like to believe. 

 

 

 

 

B0047431

B0047432

 

Aluminum Girl, 2003, painted aluminum. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Private collection on loan to  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2018

 

 

 

 

Boy with Frog, 2009, painted stainless steel. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Promised gift to the Philadelphia Art Museum on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2022.

 

The word ‘cruelty’ has been mentioned in the context of this sculpture.  It seems rather to be about the curiosity which survived and flourished our species against very large odds.

 

 

 

 

Mime, 2014, aluminum.

  Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Private collection loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

The sculpture is modeled on the recumbent figure of the professional mime, Lorin Eric Salm. 

This representation may or may not be miming.  Sculpture, the artist suggests, creates illusions also.

 

 

 

 

Reclining woman, 2018, stainless steel. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

A woman who, by profession, is a personal banker whom the artist met and thought a fitting model for a sculpture.

Presented on a slab of a platform like a statue and not like a representation of a living, breathing human, the woman squints in discomfort

or in interrogation of the long tradition of presenting women reclining and naked.

 

 

 

Two Horses, 2019, granite. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

Archangel, 2021, cypress. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Courtesy of the artist. The sculpture was carved of hinoki by Yuboko Mukoyoshi and his apprentices.

 

The archangel Gabriel envisioned – through many personal references – lighting onto unstable ground.  The gesture of his hands joins heaven and earth through his body. 

This was an expression of the artist’s shock at the terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. The archangel is known to all three Abrahamic traditions.

 

 

Race (North America)

 

The artist said: “I needed to embrace not just what I could make but what America could make and what America was.  I returned to the river and to Twain.”

 

The Huckleberry Finn story is of the friendship between a couple:  Huck, an impoverished white boy escaping his father; and Jim, an enslaved black man escaping to the free states.  Their relationship is unequal. 

 

The book is controversial for its unresolved position on slavery and prejudice.

 

The artist’s creatures do not touch each other’s bodies. 

 

Their poses represent the close, unequal, interdependent, conflicted and perplexing relationship between the races in North America.

 

That the artist has chosen to address race says everything about his moral imagination and courage in a (North American) artistic tradition in which White artists of all kinds tend to skirt around race for its extreme sensitivity. 

 

 

 

Huck and Jim, 2014, stainless steel. Charles Ray, American born 1953. 

Whitney Museum of Art, NY loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Williams, 2021, stainless steel. 

Charles Ray, American born 1953.  Loan of the artist and his gallery to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022

 

In chapter 10 of Huckleberry Finn, Jim helps Huck disguise himself as a girl to go out to discover the status of the search for them.

Sarah Williams is the name Huck takes for this sortie.  Jim is adjusting the skirt of ‘Sarah Williams” dress.

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Charles Ray: Body Language

  1. He was my sculpture teacher at UCLA back in the day. Bit esoteric. I managed to win him over with my final figurative sculpture in his class. I’m not a huge fan, but I do like his stuff alright.

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