Art21: Michael Ray Charles in “Consumption” from Season 1 of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series

by Glasstire July 8, 2024
A man wearing a Superman shirt stands in a studio looking at large scale paintings.

Production still from the “Consumption” episode of “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” Season 1. © Art21, Inc. 2001.

As part of Glasstire’s yearlong partnership with Art21, the organization known for producing award-winning documentary films about the lives and work of some of the world’s best-known contemporary artists, we’ll be co-publishing a small selection of films highlighting artists who are either based in Texas or have a significant connection to the state.

For the first season of Art21, back in 2001, Michael Ray Charles was filmed on location at his home and studio in Austin, Texas. Through his studies of advertising, the minstrel tradition, and blackface, Charles seeks to deconstruct and subvert images of blackness through painting.

“I’ve been called a sellout. People question my blackness. A lot of people accuse me of perpetuating a stereotype,” he says. “I think there’s a fine line between perpetuating something and questioning something. And I like to get as close to it as possible.” Pointing out items from his collection of memorabilia, Charles traces the transformation of stereotypes in his work. The segment concludes at an exhibition of Charles’ work in New York City.

Michael Ray Charles was born in 1967 in Lafayette, Louisiana, and graduated from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1985. He studied advertising design and illustration in college, eventually moving to painting, his preferred medium. Charles also received an MFA degree from the University of Houston in 1993. His graphically styled paintings investigate racial stereotypes drawn from a history of American advertising, product packaging, billboards, radio jingles, and television commercials.

Watch the film below. You can see this and other films on Art21’s website, and on their YouTube channel.

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