Michael Ray Charles is the most comprehensive presentation yet of the work of an artist who rose to prominence in the 1990s for works that engaged American stereotypes of African Americans. With a background in advertising and an archivist’s inquisitiveness, Charles developed an artistic practice that made startling use of found images and offered critiques of the narratives they fostered. Immersing readers in the imagination of this daring painter, Michael Ray Charles celebrates and contextualizes a singular, major figure in the art world.
Art historian Cherise Smith collaborated with the artist to curate nearly one hundred color plates documenting nearly thirty years of visual art. These plates are framed by an interview with the artist and by Smith’s own deep interpretive essay on Charles’s work. Smith explores topics ranging from the controversy resulting from Charles’s provocative appropriations of stereotypical racial material to his techniques of sampling from popular culture, and from his commentaries on African American men and sports to his work with director Spike Lee on Bamboozled. Both clear-eyed and complex, this retrospective demonstrates the significant role that Michael Ray Charles’s work has played in defining what art is today.
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