For almost fifty years Charles Ray has been making art that engages the mind and the eye. His earliest works often included his own performing body. More recently he has focused on his work’s relationship to the long history of sculpture. This can be seen not only in his engagement with the fundamental elements of the medium — space, mass, texture — but also in his adoption of historical themes, including the equestrian portrait, the reclining nude, and the relief. At the same time, Ray’s works are firmly embedded in their time and place, with subject matter and techniques finely attuned to our historical moment.
Ray has devoted most of the past decade to creating sculptures of figures, animals, and inanimate objects, often carved from solid blocks of stainless steel or other metals in a state-of-the-art process that combines skilled handwork with industrial technology. He works slowly, often spending years studying his subjects and sculpting different versions at various scales. His attention to detail is meticulous, the faintness or sharpness of each part carefully calibrated to guide the viewer’s attention around the work as a whole.
Charles Ray (b. 1953) grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles in 1981, where he currently lives and works. His art has been featured in Documenta, three Venice Biennales, and five Whitney Biennials, and his sculptures have been the subject of two retrospectives. The first was organized in 1998 by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The second was from 2014 to 2015 at the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2019 a large exhibition of his plaster patterns was organized by the Reina Sofía in Madrid.