"In contemporary art, surface is an expression of anxiety, and no one is as anxious about surface as I am." --Charles Ray, 1998
Los Angeles-based artist Charles Ray has been altering notions of abstract sculpture since the early 1970s, often drawing from popular culture and the most basic aspects of human experience for source material. He has said of his past work that he was trying to "make something that was so abstract it became real and so real that it became abstract," and his art tends to focus on such carefully calculated oppositions--between abstraction and representation, perceptions of the real and the ideal, sculptural form and the implication or residue of the event.
For Unpainted Sculpture, Ray began with the purchase of a Pontiac Grand Am (circa 1991) from a salvage auction--a place where one can buy automobiles that have been involved in accidents. The artist then completely dismantled the wrecked car and cast it piece by piece in fiberglass. In a typically painstaking process, he rebuilt it as one would a model hobby kit. Thought of another way, Ray made the original car disappear in order to create its aura. The sculpture took two years to complete.
Ray chose as his model a form made by pure chance, created by speed and impact, by the collision of form, material, space, and time. As with modernist sculpture, the piece has a sense of "volume" about it, in fact, it weighs more than the original car from which it is molded. The color--like the body-shop primer normally found underneath the high-gloss finish--lends the work a disinterested quality, a flatness and silence, despite the drama of the event that produced the original wreck.