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Charles Ray Is Almost Famous

"Charles Ray, one of today's most critically admired sculptors, has since the 1970s produced an extraordinarily varied oeuvre whose common thread has been a preoccupation with reality and illusion," Ken Johnson writes for the New York Times.

"Since the late 1990s, he has been creating works of terrific technical ambition and sometimes controversial subject matter.

"For Charles Ray: Sculpture 1997-2014, the Art Institute of Chicago has devoted the 18,000 square feet of its second floor Modern Wing to just 17 pieces, affording lots of breathing room for each.

"'Horse and Rider' (2014), a full-scale equestrian self-portrait, will be displayed elsewhere in the museum. It's one of four works in the show that have not been previously exhibited."

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Teaser:

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"The first major exhibition devoted to celebrated Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based sculptor Charles Ray since a midcareer retrospective in 1998, this display of 19 works fills the second floor of the Modern Wing and flows into the museum's South Garden, presenting a full range of Ray's most recent achievements with particular emphasis on figurative experiments"

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"Charles Ray is a disturbing presence in contemporary art," Calvin Tomkins writes for the New Yorker.

"Famous but little known, an artist who can work on a sculpture for ten years and then wait several more before showing it, he is so far from the mainstream that we sometimes forget he's here."

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"Charles Ray grew up in Chicago. His parents, Wade and Helen, owned and ran a commercial-art school that Wade's grandmother had founded in 1916, in downtown Chicago, and there were always plenty of art supplies at home for their six children. Charley, the second in line, dabbled with watercolors and colored pencils and banged things together. The family moved out of the city to Winnetka in 1960, when Charley was seven."

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"The two oldest Ray boys spent their high-school years at Marmion Military Academy, a Catholic school in Aurora, Illinois.

"Their father had gone there, and he must have hoped the school would instill some academic discipline in his troublesome boys. It may even have done so, although they both hated the place.

"I was a mess," Charley recalled. "I could never comb my hair or do my shoes."

"Put in charge of a seven-man squad for a drill on parents' weekend, he marched them into a corner of the gym and couldn't get them out.

"He was so miserable at Marmion that he started experimenting with LSD (which he bought in Chicago and sneaked in), and was surprised to find his grades improving.

"In the last two years there, his father arranged for him to take the train to Chicago on Saturday mornings, so that he could attend the Art Institute's studio program for high-school students.

"I really started doing sculpture there," he said. "I remember making a kinetic piece that the teacher brought other people in to see."

"It was the first time he'd caught a glimpse of something he might do with his life."

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In 2009, Ray's "Hinoki" was the first piece installed inside the Modern Wing.

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"Aluminum Girl."

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At Matthew Marks, NYC, October 2012.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 27, 2015


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