To make the well-known work All My Clothes (1973), the artist posed for 16 photographs, modeling every item of clothing in his wardrobe. An experiment in self-portraiture, it deftly touches on anthropology, identity construction, and art history. In its methodical, purported completeness, it pokes fun at Minimalism’s dogged adherence to comprehensive systems. Its quasi-scientific method of documentation calls into question the idea of art as purely aesthetic expression. It also says something about the essential consumerism that underlies the art market.
The Los Angeles–based artist Charles Ray disorients and disarms viewers of his work via experiments in perception and scale. In one of his best-known interventions, he arranged the fabrication of a painted aluminum replica of a toy fire truck, but at the size of an actual fire truck, and parked it outside the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Though playful, Ray’s work often disturbs assumed cultural notions. Family Romance (1993) is a fiberglass sculpture of a nuclear family. Mother, father, and two young children stand holding hands, naked and eerily scaled so that they are all the same height. While Ray’s subjects are varied, they consistently engage with deeply rooted assumptions about what is “correct” or “right” in order to investigate the power structures that underlie relationships.