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Michael Ray Charles Adds Installation to UT’s Landmark Collection

Michael Ray Charles, (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations, 2015. Photo by Paul Bardagjy.

Michael Ray Charles, (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations, 2015. Photo by Paul Bardagjy.

Michael Ray Charles, who received his MFA from the University of Houston (UH) School of Art and then went to teach at the University of Texas (UT) for a couple of decades, returned to UH last fall to become Professor of Painting. But he has still been busy going back and forth between cities to install his large sculpture, (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations, on the UT campus.

Best known for his vintage advertising-looking paintings and his aggressive use of caricature and racial stereotypes, this huge sculpture seems out of place. But the “location of the work within the Gordon-White Building is key to its meaning,” writes catalogue essayist Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw. The building is home to the various academic entities committed to the study of historically marginalized cultural and world histories, including the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, the Center for African and African American Studies, the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis, the Center for Mexican American Studies, and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies.

Suspended in the atrium, the sculpture features hundreds of crutches assembled into interconnected forms. What is the symbolism of this constellation of crutches? Go ask him at next week’s Q&A and dedication reception.

The public dedication of Michael Ray Charles’ (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations will take place Thursday, October 15, beginning at 5:30pm with a Q&A session with the artist and Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw. That will be followed at 6:30pm by a reception in the Gordon-White Building. Admission is free to the public with advance registration. Visit landmarks.utexas.edu for more information, directions, and to register for the event.

also by Paula Newton
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