Charles Ray. Family Romance. 1993

Charles Ray

Family Romance


Not on view
Painted fiberglass and synthetic hair
53" x 7' 1" x 11" (134.6 x 215.9 x 27.9 cm)
Gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
Object number
© 2015 Charles Ray
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Charles Ray has 5 works online.
There are 1,416 sculptures online.

Two parents, two young children: "It's a nuclear family," as Ray says, the model of American normalcy. Yet a simple action has put everything wrong: Ray has made all of them the same height. They are also naked, and unlike the store-window mannequins they resemble, they are anatomically complete. This and the work's title, the Freudian phrase for the suppressed erotic currents within the family unit, introduce an explicit sexuality as disturbing in this context as the protagonists' literally equal stature.

Early works of Ray's submitted the forms and ideas of Minimalism to the same kind of perceptual double-take that Family Romance works on the social life of middle-class Anglo-Saxon America. He has worked in photography and installation as well as sculpture, and his art has no predictable style or medium; but it often involves the surprise of the object that seems familiar yet is not. Like other works of Ray's involving mannequins, Family Romance suggests forces of anonymity and standardization in American culture. Its manipulations of scale also imply a disruption of society's balance of power: not only have the children grown, but the adults have shrunk.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 345

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