2009 by Charles Ray
Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
Ray began his flower series when putting together a sculpture of a tractor; so taken was he with the surrounding wildlife, that he became absorbed into this very different project altogether. Though predominantly known for his sculpture Ray began his artistic career drawing, so it is perhaps no wonder that he returned to it when he felt spontaneously inspired. An entire room in the Whitney is dedicated to these flower drawings, their multi-coloured moving shapes monopolise the walls; indeed, it is a series he was preoccupied with for five years. The flowers are drawn in felt pen; no outline governs, just articulation through colour, giving the flowers a wonderful freedom as there appears to be no boundaries. The free-flowing nature of the felt-tip encourages this freedom with its watercolour-like quality; it appears natural in its varying solidarity, almost translucent in places mirroring the texture of silky petals or leaves. This delicacy, given through the subtly of colour and density, is mirrored in the shape of the petals — long and elongated, they are feeler-like, gently reaching and twisting amongst each other. The flowers themselves are overbearing, dominating and beautiful; even the leaves are small in comparison, bowing to be lost amongst them. Likewise, the flower stalks appear thin compared to these astonishing heads, curling elegantly outwards like silvery threads, while the flowers burst magnificently above.