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.
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.
Ray’s “Adam and Eve” (2023) stands outside the entrance to Brookfield Properties’ skyscrapers, One and Two Manhattan West. Consisting of two figures machined out of solid blocks of stainless steel, each nearly nine feet tall, the sculpture activates and is activated by the space of its location, which is Two Manhattan West, 375 Ninth Avenue, NYC.
“There is a harmonious relationship between Manhattan West’s new towers made of steel and glass,” writes Ray. “The towers soar to the heavens, reflecting the city and the clouds above. On the corner, a figurative sculpture consisting of two figures, a man and a woman, husband and wife, Adam and Eve, sit and stand in the spatial reality of the civic world that defines them. Eve sits at the viewer’s eye level and the liveliness of the street, with its light and its noise, reflects from her surface. Adam, standing, teeters as he looks towards 9th Avenue. The figures stir space as if space was cake batter in a bowl. Are they Adam and Eve, who lived into a very old age? Or are they two old people, a couple like you and me?”
About the artist ~ 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 six Whitney Biennials, and his sculptures have been the subject of five 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 2022, a major solo presentation opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as simultaneous solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou and Bourse de Commerce in Paris.
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