Charles Ray: Figure Ground
January 31–June 5, 2022
Charles Ray: Figure Ground presents the work of one of the most important artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. For over five decades, Ray (born Chicago, 1953) has experimented with a wide range of methods, including performance, photography, and sculpture, the medium for which he is best recognized today. In the process, he has utilized a variety of materials, expanded the fundamental terms of sculptural language, and pioneered major advances in production, combining the analog and the digital as well as human and robotic hands. Additionally, Ray’s work addresses in elliptical, often irreverent ways not only art history, popular culture, and mass media but also identity, mortality, race, and gender.
This exhibition unites sculptures from every period of Ray’s career with key photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, exploring central aspects of his challenging and sometimes provocative oeuvre. It also brings together for the first time all the works that Ray loosely patterned on Mark Twain’s 1885 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Located at The Met, whose collection the artist has studied closely for many years, Charles Ray: Figure Ground features a suite of judiciously placed works whose arrangement in space forges subtle connections between objects and viewers. Similar to a philosopher’s stone, which keeps the process of interpretation in constant motion, Ray’s sculpture poses many trenchant questions but answers none directly.