Charles Ray

Charles Ray’s art can neither be systematized into pre-existing historical categories nor framed in relation to specific artistic groups or movements. But he is no outsider. Over the last thirty years, he has emerged as one of the art world’s most unique figures. Intrigued by the vocabulary and thematics of Anthony Caro’s sculptural practice – including the joining of different elements within a work, and the work’s relationship to the surrounding space – Ray has cleverly worked through the legacy of Minimalism in his pursuit of extra-formalistic potentialities. Introducing his body into the creative process, and into the art object itself, he creates performative sculptures that generate “emanative” relationships between spectators and artworks. Although Ray doesn’t exactly “create” forms, nor is he an appropriationist. He manipulates existing forms and figures like altered ready-mades or quotes. His practice is a cycle of reprises, and with these borrowed and renewed elements he creates spectacular surprises through an unexpected manipulation of weight, scale, and perception. Behind the first level of appearances and the obvious connotations of cultural and social symbols lies a reflection that is more abstract as well as more sensitive. The invisible forces that manipulate the perception and experience of the spectator form the basis of Ray’s oeuvre. Most of his works are constructed around a duality: with the passing of time, they frequently reveal themselves to be something other than the way they appear at first glance. This explains why they are often conceived in layers, both conceptually (through a multitude of meanings) and materially (through what one might call the “Matryoshka doll effect”). In the process of revelation, an intriguing if not disturbing experience of strangeness occurs. Aiming to give sense and meaning to the initial form by rephrasing, transforming or subverting it, Ray charges his objects with emotional significance, whether through attraction or repulsion. This sublime moment of transformative experience is simultaneously cognitive and physical, creating a certain “kinesthetic” aspect that one perceives in the perpetual state of “becoming.”