Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 481. Untitled (Forever Free).

Michael Ray Charles

Untitled (Forever Free)

Lot Closed

March 18, 05:19 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 USD

Lot Details


Michael Ray Charles


Untitled (Forever Free)

signed and dated 03

acrylic, latex and copper penny on canvas

Canvas: 36 by 60 in. (91.4 by 152.4 cm.)

Framed: 37¼ by 61½ in. (94.6 by 156.2 cm.)

Cotthem Gallery, Belgium
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Since the early nineties, African-American artist Michael Ray Charles has explored the cultural impact of racial visual codes. Like his contemporaries Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall, Michael Ray Charles unveils the complex historical development of racial identity in America. He confronts the viewer with a variety of images that depict African American stereotypes and the way they have shaped our collective memory. The messages he conveys through his art, however, are not always welcome. “A lot of Blacks don’t want to see images like mine; perhaps they bring up too much pain,” asserts Charles. “A lot of whites are embarrassed and feel ashamed by them.  But out of sight, out of mind doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It happened, and I feel it has not been dealt with.” (The artist cited in Steven Heller, “Michael Ray Charles: When Racist Art Was Commercial Art”, PRINT, 15 January 2012)

In an interview with Tony Shafrazi, Michael Ray Charles describes the Forever Free Post Series, “The Forever Free Post was the first series I did. For me The Saturday Evening Post depicted a version of American life that was foreign to me, yet I knew existed, at least in some folks’ minds. When I began researching Norman Rockwell’s work, I thought about the form of the work and how I could use the Sambo image in a similar manner, to communicate the presence of past social beliefs and their influences today.” (Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Michael Ray Charles, New York 1998, p 8.)

It was around 2002 that Charles’ art underwent a refreshing change; his compositions became more harmonious, immersive, pure and mature and are reduced to the essential. Due to his regular visits to Europe, specifically Belgium where his second studio is based, Charles’ work evolved to focus and comment on issues as globalization, technologic evolution, migration, politics, inequality and its effects on minorities. As Spike Lee stated, “Michael Ray Charles attacks some serious issues and with a deft humor, which is very hard to do. He makes you laugh while he’s killing you. That’s a real artist.” (Spike Lee in Exh. Cat., New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Michael Ray Charles, New Paintings, 1997, p. 3)