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From Art Editor, Amanda Gluibizzi
Installation view of an aluminum sculpture depicting a mime laying down on a cot in the exhibition...
Installation viewThree Christs, Sleeping Mime, and the Last Supper / Pagan ParadiseCharles Ray and the Hill Collection © Charles Ray; Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks GalleryPhotograph by Charles Ray

Brooklyn Rail review of Charles Ray exhibition. December 2019.


Charles Ray is a slippery artist for me. In the time that I have been engaging with his work, I have often been surprised by what gives me pause, and by what I find myself returning to days, sometimes even years, after I have seen it. So often, it is something slight: witnessing the slow ripples created by the edges of a woman’s fur sleeve as it dragged through Ink Box (1986), installed in Ray’s 1998 Whitney retrospective; observing the sheen of flowing ink in 1987’s Ink Line and becoming aware, before even reading the title or anything about it, that the line moved. I wondered what, if anything, would strike me when I visited the Hill Art Foundation’s current exhibition, Three Christs, Sleeping Mime, and the Last Supper; Pagan Paradise, which is curated by Ray from the Foundation’s collection and features, in addition to four of his own pieces, intimately-scaled bronzes made by Italian, French, and Netherlandish sculptors of the 16th and 17th centuries.

While viewing the show I was confident that Golden Jewelry (undated), a tiny shriveled apple, complete with gold stem, gifted by the artist to his wife, would make the greatest impact. But no: what I have been turning over, again and again, is Ray’s recumbent Mime (2014), and more precisely, the sleeping Mime’s soft-soled shoes. They are aluminum, as is the rest of the sculpture, and presumably metallurgically stiff, but visually they are also undeniably ductile and respond believably to the figure’s bony feet. Similarly, the aluminum cot on which Mime rests strains and bows under his weight: we can notice these effects if we get down on our hands and knees because the sculpture does not sit flat on a podium. Instead, it rests lightly on the floor on the four legs of the cot, rendered fully in the round, even underneath. And then there is the fact that these qualities were not made by the artist at all. Rather, Mime “was carved by a robot,” as Ray writes in an essay that accompanies the exhibition. Any visible hand is purely metallic, the material’s or the non-human maker’s.

The effects created by the surface finish of Mime are further explored in a sterling silver sculpture nearby, Mountain Lion Attacking Dog (2018), which Ray describes as “an essay in mark making.” This work portrays, through different methods of chasing, the respective pelts of its animal protagonists. Ray’s attention to such technical challenges also creates a dialogue with the Renaissance and Baroque sculptures he has selected to appear in the exhibition. The installation is a lesson in withholding: there are only nine pieces included over the two floors, with every wall-mounted object given its own wall and each sculpture in the round provided its own generous floor space. As a result, we can draw quite close to objects that would more often be seen sharing cases with others.

read full review here.

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