The Getty has installed Charles Ray’s sculpture ‘Boy With a Frog’


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Today I stopped by the Getty Center to look at Charles Ray’s 2009 sculpture, ‘Boy With a Frog,’ newly installed on the steps in front of the museum. It will be on view until January. I’ll have a full review of the work next week (hint: ‘wow’), but for the moment I thought I’d post several photographs of the installation that show the context in some depth.

Unfortunately, the installation is a bit of a mixed bag.

On one hand, the 8-foot-tall sculpture, made from fiberglass painted pure white, presents a compelling figure as a visitor arrives at the museum or the research library. Facing across the limestone expanse of the tram arrival plaza toward Martin Puryear’s colossal, open-framework head, ‘That Profile,’ commissioned for the site in 1999, the classically inflected boy nods toward antiquity, while the hyper-precision of the piece is up to the minute.


His placement also creates an engaging theatrical tableau. A few steps down to the left, Aristide Maillol’s 1938 reclining nude, ‘Air,’ looks back over her shoulder, as if sizing up the heroic young man now standing behind her. She’s balanced delicately on her right hip, while her extended limbs form the start of a visual pinwheel-movement around her serenely still, classically designed head.

Puryear’s sculpture is a tranquil profile bust set against the landscape of the Santa Monica mountains in the distance. The composition derives from a novel motif in Italian Renaissance portraiture, while the form is seamlessly fused with streamlined, Iife bronze and clay heads from 12th to 14th century Nigeria. Together, the three plaza figures collapse time and space into a gorgeously articulated sculptural experience.

So what’s the hitch? The Getty has closed off the steps where the ghostly Ray sculpture stands. (The Maillol is also inaccessible.) Presumably for security reasons, there’s no way to get near it.

That’s frustrating. One can only see the work from a distance, which interferes with visual scrutiny of the details and bodily knowledge of its scale. (That the youth is slightly larger than life is important to the work.) The closest one can get is off to the side, which further means the view of the figure is limited to an angle or else around in the back. It’s impossible to stand in front of him; the disconcerting gesture of his upraised arm holding its amphibious prize is thus limited to something public — think Roman oratory — but not idiosyncratic and personal.

Here is a variety of views of Ray’s work installed on the steps, together with the Maillol and the Puryear: RELATED:

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