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Family romance

Charles Ray American

Not on view

Although Family romance relies on the technology of mannequin making, Ray considers it one of his earliest sculptures of figures. The title alludes to a 1909 essay by Sigmund Freud on intrafamilial conflict as well as to the slogan "family values," instrumentalized by President George H. W. Bush in the early 1990s. The sculpture, which Ray has called "an abstraction of a relationship of parts," parodies the archetype of the heteronormative family. Its four figures with interlocked hands read like a chain of three-dimensional paper dolls. All are the same height, making them either too tall or too short for their age. The overall composition is strict, repetitive, and modular. Logic bests passion, while mechanical reproduction trumps procreation. In its dramatization of artificiality, Family romance also decouples the human and the "natural," disassociating sex, gender, and race from biology.

Family romance, Charles Ray (American, born Chicago, Illinois, 1953), Painted fiberglass and hair

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