Ben Luke talks to Charles Ray about his influences and the cultural experiences that shape his life and work.
Ray, born in 1953 and based in Los Angeles, is one of the most singular voices in contemporary sculpture, with an extraordinary grasp of the key elements of the discipline—space, material, surface, scale, weight and mass—and a unique approach to imagery, drawing on a huge range of sources to create absorbing, yet deeply ambiguous works.
Carved and cast by hand and using cutting-edge technology, they often take years to come to fruition, and are made and remade in a variety of different patterns and prototypes in a range of materials and scales before being completed.
Ray engages deeply with the history of sculpture, and in this conversation reflects on his admiration for everything from Anthony Caro’s abstract metal sculpture Early One Morning to the ancient Greek Great Eleusinian Relief. He also reflects on the significance to his work of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the importance of his daily walks to his practice. Plus, he answers our usual questions, including the ultimate: what is art for?
• Charles Ray, Bourse de Commerce, Paris, 16 February-6 June, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 16 February-20 June; Figure Ground, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, until 5 June; Ray features in this year’s Whitney Biennial, Quiet as it’s Kept, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, (6 Apr–5 September); the third special installation of Ray’s works at Glenstone, Potomac, Maryland continues until spring 2023.