In Pictures: See Why Charles Ray’s Startling Art Continues to Unsettle in Shows in New York, Maryland, and Elsewhere

A slew of international exhibitions are currently highlighting Ray's work.

Installation view, "Charles Ray: Figure Ground." © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Walking into the galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one might expect to encounter ancient nudes rendered in marble. It’s surprising, then, to see a life-size Japanese cypress sculpture of a shirtless, man-bunned, flip-flopped young man, balanced elegantly atop a wooden plinth and titled—of all things—Archangel. But then again, as a work by the always-surprising sculptor Charles Ray, it makes a lot more sense.

In the Met’s “Charles Ray: Figure Ground,” the artist’s first solo show in a New York museum in almost 25 years, pieces from every part of his career are on display: from his works based on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to faithful incarnations of objects and a family of fiberglass nudes, holding hands like twisted dolls.

Ray is having a moment. Right now, in addition to “Figure Ground,” the artist’s work is on display in an ongoing presentation at Glenstone, in Potomac, Md.; the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Bourse de Commerce in Paris; and come April, it will be featured in the Whitney Biennial.

Below, see images from “Charles Ray: Figure Ground,” on view at the Met Fifth Avenue through June 5, 2022, and additional shows.

Installation view, "Charles Ray: Figure Ground." Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. © Charles Ray.

Installation view, “Charles Ray: Figure Ground.” © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Installation view, "Charles Ray: Figure Ground." Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. © Charles Ray.

Installation view, “Charles Ray: Figure Ground.” © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, <i>Sarah Williams</i> (2021). Collection of the artist, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery photograph by Charles Ray Studio.

Charles Ray, Sarah Williams (2021). © Charles Ray, collection of the artist. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Charles Ray Studio.

Charles Ray, Family Romance (1993). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, <i>Chicken</i> (2007). Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Md.; Photo credit: Josh White © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

Charles Ray, Chicken (2007), at Glenstone, Potomac, Md. © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Josh White,

Charles Ray, <I>Reclining Woman</I> (2018). Courtesy the FLAG Art Foundation; photograph by Sean Logue © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

Charles Ray, Reclining Woman (2018). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the FLAG Art Foundation and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Sean Logue.

Charles Ray, <i>Archangel</i>, (2021). Collection of the artist, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery; photograph by Takeru Koroda © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

Charles Ray, Archangel (2021). © Charles Ray. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Takeru Koroda.

© Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, A copy of ten marble fragments of the Great Eleusinian Relief (2017). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

Charles Ray, Untitled, (1973, printed 1989). © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.Photo credit: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Untitled (1973/1989). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Huck and Jim (2014). © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Huck and Jim (2014). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Josh White.

© Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Tractor (2005), on view at Glenstone, Potomac, Md. © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Beth Phillips.

© Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Mime (2014), at Kunstmuseum Basel. © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Josh White.

Charles Ray, Boy with Frog (2006). © Charles Ray, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, Boy with Frog (2006). © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Charles Ray, 81x83x85=86x83x85 (1989), at Glenstone, Potomac, Md. © Charles Ray. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

Installation view, "Charles Ray: Figure Ground." Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. © Charles Ray.

Installation view, “Charles Ray: Figure Ground.” © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Installation view, “Charles Ray: Figure Ground.” © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

Installation view, "Charles Ray: Figure Ground." Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. © Charles Ray.

Installation view, “Charles Ray: Figure Ground.” © Charles Ray. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

 


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

artnet and our partners use cookies to provide features on our sites and applications to improve your online experience, including for analysis of site usage, traffic measurement, and for advertising and content management. See our Privacy Policy for more information about cookies. By continuing to use our sites and applications, you agree to our use of cookies.

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In