basel

Charles Ray, Unpainted Sculpture, 1997, automotive primer, fiberglass, 4' 11 7/8“ × 6' 6” × 14' 2 7/8".

Charles Ray

Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst

Charles Ray, Unpainted Sculpture, 1997, automotive primer, fiberglass, 4' 11 7/8“ × 6' 6” × 14' 2 7/8".

CHARLES RAY’S ELEGANT EXHIBITION at the Kunstmuseum Basel and Museum für Gegenwartskunst “Sculpture, 1997–2014,” turned on one question: Is he classical? It seems strange to ask this about an artist who spent the 1980s inserting his own scruffy body into minimalist oblongs, before lending the trauma-obsessed early ’90s such key sculptures as Fall ’91, 1992, an eight-foot-tall mannequin in a poisonous-pink skirt suit. Yet certain aspects of the latter’s more modest counterpart in Basel, Aluminum Girl, 2003—her creamy skin, stern cheekbones, hairless vulva, and orb-like eyes—are undeniably classical, although not in Jeff Koons’s Caesars Palace sense. As art historian Richard Neer argues in his contribution to the catalogue (presented alongside standout essays by Anne Wagner and Michael Fried), there are countless classicisms, and Ray is indebted to none. What is classical

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