Sunday, 23 September 2012

Charles Ray - Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley...

Charles Ray - Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley…, 1992. Eight painted cast fiberglass mannequins with wigs
6 x 15 x 15 ft. (1.8 x 4.6 x 4.6 m)

Oh! Charley Charley Charley by Charles Ray.  I would think this is gross.  But, it is sort of cool that it’s the same person- the artist, in fact- who is pleasing himself.  He is taking care of every aspect of his own human need.  Others are not necessary.  Sort of stand alone, “I can take you all” sort of mindset, presented sexually.  I think.

Ray’s Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley … (1992) is about nothing if not self-abuse. What is significant, here, is not how much Ray reveals of himself, but how very little. Circle-jerking with his clones, he provides the viewer with no entry point, no tender, vulnerable spot. This is pure masturbation. However, for all the hermeticism of the scene, it seems to know something of awkwardness, and even disappointment. Here and there the artist baulks at giving himself a foot-job, or else attempts to stir his half-flaccid penis back into full life. We might – pace my flatmate’s suggestion – take up the opportunity to go fuck ourselves, but sometimes space has a cruel habit of alienating us from even the most familiar body of all.
Tom Morton

The figures in this sculpture are all self-portraits of Charles Ray, and Ray is a heterosexual male. Ray’s heterosexual identity denies the portrayal of desire and sex among these various selves, unless we conceive of the sculpture as a pre-oedipal representation of narcissism. If so, Ray would have been better off with one figure, and nine mirrors. Thus, Ray’s actual intent denies the homosexual fantasy the multiple image seems to indicate.

Oh, Charley, Charley, Charley! points toward the possibility that beneath our conceptualization of sexuality there lies neither heterosexual identity nor homosexual identity, but something else beyond that dichotomy. After all, Ray himself, as stated above, plays with the likelihood that the viewer will misunderstand his intent. The misinterpretation of artistic intent is in turn based upon a faulty apprehension of “normal behavior.” Ray leads us upon a zany obsessive-compulsive chase. Like a cat in its game of mistaken identity, he is chasing his own tail while we watch and wonder. Does he know what he is doing? His seeming obsessive-compulsive narcissism obfuscates the normative sexual concerns we, as viewers, bring to his sculpture.
Isaac Stolzfut

What about psychological content? While making a piece like Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley . . .you’re not blind to the fact that it’s going to have at least a profoundly unnerving effect on some people.
But the process by which Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley . . . actually came about was much less psychological than you think, y’know? I think of it more as a flat and lonely piece rather than erotically charged. It’s really flat, nothing’s revealed; I’m masturbating. You don’t know what my preferences are. You don’t know what I’m thinking of. At first it looks as if I’m really vulnerable — this has been carried through lots of work, even back in the early pieces where I used my body, like the Shelf piece. You walk into the room and I look really vulnerable. But I’m not. It’s so set off that nothing of me becomes revealed. In Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley . . . there’s nothing revealed about me. You don’t know me any better. You know, I make it, it’s a big sex orgy, and then you see it. You see nothing. Family Romance and Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley . . ., to me, are similar problems: How, in this day and age, do you make a group figurative sculpture? Art is this dialectic between the abstraction and the image. I’m interested in it working as a sculpture, in how the forms look put together. I think it had all the stuff under the surface because it was a good sculpture. But I didn’t build this around it to bring these things out — I would have rejected and not finished it if it didn’t have those, but I think it’s part of the process. Time is part of the problem — to make a real formal baroque sculpture in 1998. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s fuckin’ hard.

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