Charles Ray - Carte Blanche New York Monday, November 8, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Feature, New York; Private collection, Chicago; Christie’s New York, Contemporary Art, May 19, 1999, lot 12

  • Exhibited

    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Recent Drawing: Roni Horn, Charles Ray, Jim Shaw, Michael Tetherow, February – May 1990 (illustrated); Newport Harbor Art Museum, Charles Ray, July – September 1990, pp. 22 – 23 (illustrated; another version exhibited)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Upon first glance, this work appears to be a minimalist drawing. However closer inspection reveals that in true Charles Ray fashion, this piece is not exactly what it seems. Ink Drawing is in fact a very complex sculpture. It blends together two of Ray’s preferred mediums, ink and glass, with the minimalism and formal purity of the rectangle. A sheet of glass is placed in a steel frame and black ink is poured between the panes, forming a tenuous equilibrium as the ink fills the bottom half of the piece, dividing the work into two perfect halves. To say that Ray’s art is precise would be an understatement —the works are incredibly labor-intensive and infinitely more complicated than the extreme simplicity of the forms belie.
    Ray’s art has a surprisingly unsettling effect on the viewer. The latent tension of his ink pieces unearths an inherent desire in the viewer to touch and test the work in front of them. In referring to his ink pieces, Ray once said: “If you spill ink all over the floor, there’s no anxiety there. You’ve got a mess. But if you have a potential for a mess, you have anxiety. It’s not boxing anxiety in; it’s about creating anxiety. Anxiety only exists when there’s a potential for disruption, right? It seems silly to talk about these pieces in terms of risk. The most that could happen is someone getting some ink on their dress or their shirt. But, you know, it’s not real risk. It’s not bodily risk. It’s an attack of anxiety, in your desire to touch, your desire to disrupt” (Lucinda Barnes, “Interview with Charles Ray,” Charles Ray, Newport Harbor Art Museum, July 15 – September 23, 1990, p. 18)
    Ray’s art questions perception and reality. The simple forms and clean lines are much more than what they seem —he layers them, literally, and by doing so takes minimalism a step further, imbuing it with an element of the sublime. Ink Drawing is part of the same series as his other captivating ink pieces including Rotating Circle and Ink Cube however the present work is perhaps his most beautiful and infinitely more adaptable to its surroundings.


Ink Drawing

Executed in 1988
Ink, steel and glass.
50 1/2 x 43 x 1 in. (128.3 x 109.2 x 2.5 cm).
This work is from an edition of 3.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $962,500

Carte Blanche

8 November 2010  6pm
New York