Forever Free, One and Another encourages the viewer to dive beyond the surface in search for a deeper meaning, a hallmark of Michael Ray Charles’s painterly practice. The paradoxical setting of the nighttime seascape underlit by an undetectable source of light on the two towering figures semi-immersed by the rising water, demonstrates the impact and destruction of Hurricane Katrina on the citizens of New Orleans. The intense, emotionally-charged scene further accentuates the solitude and plight of the figures, isolating them in an imprecise, undesirable world. The monochromatic color palette, predominantly driven by blues and blue-greens, recalls the visual vocabulary of Pablo Picasso´s Blue period. The viewer is immersed in an unreal cosmos beyond time and space.
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).
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