Having been employed as a department store janitor during his freshman year of college, Charles Ray (b. 1953) understands the unease that a mannequin — an inanimate object that one might readily mistake for a live human — can inspire. Ray’s work is also charged with purely sculptural tensions that exist between surface and interior, armature and appendage and / or size and scale. With Boy (1992), Ray created a particularly disquieting figure.
Museum Guard With Sense of Humor Poses With Boy
The sculpture stands just shy of six feet tall, the artist’s exact height, yet maintains the softness of youth in its rounded cheeks and limbs. The boy is clad in outdated garments, hovering ‘between baby and Hitler youth,” in the words of one critic. Additionally, the boy’s pose and gesture suggest a confrontational manner at odds with his neutral expression.
Many of Charles Ray’s best-known works are remakes of objects and people taken from the real world. Small but significant alterations to familiar situations give Ray’s practice a disquieting tension. Cloaked in simplicity, his often humorous creations comment on sculpture’s history, from its austere formal issues to its surreal psychological consequences. Ray imbues the tenets of classical sculpture, such as beauty, proportion, and facture, with a sly drama by inserting slippages, imperfections, or over–perfections in the physical makeup of his works. Fall ’91 (1992) depicts a woman standing with her weight mostly on one foot in a common contrapposto pose. Modeled on a mannequin scaled to 8 feet tall, the sculpture looms large in a pink power suit that was fashionable in the fall of 1991. The result is both physically and psychologically daunting.
Photographed in The Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles.