Charles Ray, Hinoki, 2007, wood. Installation view, Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua White.

CHARLES RAY DID IN FACT STEAL the thirty-two-foot-long fallen tree that inspired his recent sculpture Hinoki, just as rumor has it. After spotting the tree in a California field, Ray tried and failed to acquire it through legitimate channels. Not to be deterred, he returned to the site, chain saw in tow. Over a series of trips, he transported the tree, in hundreds of pieces, back to his studio in Los Angeles.

Thus commenced Hinoki’s decadelong backstory—protracted even for Ray, who often spends years on his intricately fabricated sculptures in order to achieve just the right subtle-yet-delirious mimetic shift. Hinoki is no simple copy of the pilfered original: Every piece of the disassembled log was re-created in fiberglass; the pieces were then fitted together into one jigsawed “log,” which was sliced into five sections that were shipped to a team of traditional wood-carvers

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