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Charles Ray American

Not on view

Archangel was conceived for an exhibition in Paris. Shocked by terrorist attacks like the one that occurred in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2015, Ray envisioned the archangel Gabriel, a guardian figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, alighting onto unstable ground. This initial inspiration was subsequently filtered through what the artist has called a "tangled heap" of personal and cultural references, including "illustrations from primary-school catechism textbooks." In the final work, the title is the only direct trace of the original idea.

The sculpture was carved from Japanese cypress (hinoki) in Osaka by expert woodworker Yuboku Mukoyoshi and his apprentices using a single block of laminated timber. An adult male figure perches precariously but gracefully atop a simple box. Like much of Ray’s work, Archangel crisscrosses the historical and art historical timeline. While the figure’s exposed torso and outstretched arms evoke a Christian crucifixion scene, his rolled-up pants, flip-flops, and man bun identify him with the contemporary moment.

Archangel, Charles Ray (American, born Chicago, Illinois, 1953), Cypress

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photograph by Takeru Koroda