American sculptor. He studied for his BFA at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, graduating in 1975, then for his MFA at the Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University, NJ, graduating in 1979. Initially influenced by sculptors such as Anthony Caro, by including his own body in his works he made them more like documented performances. In Plank Piece I–II (1973), for example, he pinned his body to the wall with a large piece of wood. This literalism was manifested in another early photo work, All My Clothes (1973; Los Angeles, CA, Mus. Contemp. A.), in which he presented himself dressed in each of his outfits. By the early 1980s Ray extended this absurdity to generate a more deadpan manipulation of Minimalist iconography. In Ink Box (1986; Newport Beach, CA, Orange Co. Mus. A.), a large cube is filled to the brim with ink, giving the illusion of a solid cube. In the 1990s he used mannequins in his sculptures, for example in Family Romance (1993; E. and P. Norton, priv. col. see 1998 exh. cat., pp. 38–9), where mom, dad, brother and sister are all presented at the same height (the height of the artist), so that the nuclear family becomes a grotesque comment on the illusion of ‘normality'. Ray takes conventions, whether they are from art history or the shop window, and uses them to re-present identity and perception as coded assumptions that can be destabilised with disturbing ease by his deadpan reconfigurations.
Charles Ray (exh. cat. by L. Nittve, Malmö, Rooseum; London, ICA, 1994)
Young Americans: New American Art in the Saatchi Collection (exh. cat., essay J. Deitch, London, Saatchi Gal., 1996)
Charles Ray (exh. cat., essays P. Schimmel and L. Phillips, Los Angeles, CA, Mus. Contemp. A., 1998)
CATHERINE M. GRANT
10 December 2000