For the past few years, Charles Ray has created metal sculptures that are machined rather than cast, resulting in solid, life-size figures weighing thousands of pounds.
The process refers back to the subtractive carving techniques of Classical statuary, although Ray’s subjects are thoroughly contemporary. His latest exhibition at Matthew Marks is a slight evolution.
Similar to previous works is “Mime,” a life-size, carved aluminum sculpture of a man sleeping on a folding cot. The man’s languid pose puts a gendered spin on any number of Classical reclining nudes (although the figure is fully clothed), and his silvery appearance lends him a ghostly air.
This illusion is disrupted somewhat by Ray’s decision to leave the seams between the component pieces visible. It’s an interesting gesture, but doesn’t go far enough.
More compelling is “Baled Truck,” which calls up touchstones from the artist’s long career. A stainless-steel sculpture of a truck compacted into a rough rectangle, it is mostly a bar of shiny, crinkled metal, like a wad of foil discarded by a giant.
Its shape refers back to Ray’s earlier plays on Minimalist form, like “Ink Box” from 1986, a cube filled with black ink. It also evokes 1997’s “Unpainted Sculpture,” a full-scale, faithfully detailed, fiberglass cast of a crashed car.
The new piece is a condensation of past and present — not just a commemoration of the defunct truck, but of the artist’s own trajectory.
Matthew Marks Gallery, 1062 N. Orange Grove, (323) 654-1830, through Dec. 20. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.matthewmarks.com