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81 x 83 x 85 = 86 x 83 x 85

Charles Ray American

Not on view

Superficially reminiscent of a minimalist cube from the 1960s, 81 x 83 x 85 = 86 x 83 x 85 is a spatial and conceptual conundrum. The key is in the title, which gives the box’s exterior measurements in the first half of the equation and the interior in the second. The equivalence promised by the equal sign is contradicted by the five-centimeter (approximately two-inch) disparity in depth, the result of the sculpture being set into the floor. The equation is therefore mathematically erroneous but factually correct as a description of the object. Here, as elsewhere, the space inside and around the sculpture is as much Ray’s material as the aluminum. As the artist once observed, "A sculpture does not simply sit in space or occupy space; it is made of space."

81 x 83 x 85 = 86 x 83 x 85, Charles Ray (American, born Chicago, Illinois, 1953), Aluminum

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Illustration credit: Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Md; photograph by Ron Amstutz