Charles Ray at the George Economou Collection brings together four important works spanning a period from the early 1970s to the present. The exhibition draws attention to Ray’s dialogue with compositions based on readymades as well as his technologically radical sculptures, which can take several years to produce.
Ray’s latest sculpture opens the show. Produced in solid aluminum, it is a copy of the Roman replica of the Great Eleusinian Relief in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show continues with a materially seductive work that previously existed only in photographic documentation. It combines wood, rope, and brick and sets the stage for a career that could be characterized as transforming experiences into objects. The process of making causes a transformation and creates some new immaterial property.
A careful investigation into the biological process of hatching, Handheld Bird, 2006, is a meditation on life and lifelessness. This painted steel sculpture of an embryonic form captures the life, death, and gestation of a creature that has not yet taken its final form. The intricately compressed body, with its folded legs and tucked-in wings, is intensely tactile: the impulse is to take it into your hand, which would make the hand into an egg, while your arm and body become its pedestal or support.
School Play, 2014, convincingly captures the state of being in character, in a role. The form, posture, and physiognomy of the boy in School Play gives him an easy pose that enhances our perception of the work as a translation of subject into object. On closer inspection, however, a range of tooling marks become evident and, in conjunction with the costume and props, the experience gives way to a certain estrangement that complicates the understanding of it as a strictly representational form or sculptural surrogate.
Ray’s intentionality, sculptural language, and working methods could be understood as stemming from an uneasiness with the world, an alertness to the transitory nature of existence, an intimate feel for mortality, or his career-defining ability to complicate the fundamental epistemes of artistic production in the postwar period. His self-sufficient works, completely adequate in themselves, are more than an outward form of expression; they are intuition, the inner experience itself.
The exhibition is curated by Gavin Delahunty, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art with Skarlet Smatana, Director of the GEC in close collaboration with the artist. A publication with new essays by Delahunty and Mark Godfrey, Senior Curator at Tate Modern, will accompany the exhibition.