Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 4

This morning's topic is "Unpainted Sculpture" by Charles Ray. Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time this artist-fellow, named Charles Ray, bought a demolished Pontiac from an auction. The Pontiac he bought looked just like the one in the picture above. Then Charles Ray took it completely apart and made fiberglass casts of each piece, each little painstaking piece. Then he put it back together, painted it gray (which is funny because of the title), and got the mess you see above. The end.
So other than the obvious pain-in-the-ass the process probably was, you might find yourself wondering: so what's the big deal? It's just a completely trashed car. Well, let's do a little experiment. Take a look at this car:

Now look back at "Unpainted Sculpture." Now look at them again, and one more time just for the hell of it. What do you notice? What is the major difference between these two images? Emotion.
Usually when people see a wrecked car, or an image of one, there is some sort of emotional reaction that takes place. The reaction could be one of depression, pity, or even excitement. However, when you look at "Unpainted Sculpture," chances are, you experience no emotional reaction. Why is this? Could it be because you're looking at something that you know is supposed to be art? Because you're getting a secondhand look at disaster? Though these are all valid reasons, I believe the main reason is because of color. That's right, color. It's a proven fact that certain colors provoke psychological reactions in people. Typically you'll find that cool colors arouse calmer feelings and warm colors arouse more energetic feelings. A few examples: Blue can make people feel calm, where yellow can make people feel more aggressive. People in a blue room are less likely to argue than if they were in a yellow one. Red is an interesting one because not only are its effects psychological, but it can even have physical effects. It can raise someone's heart rate and is even said to make people hungry. Hence fast food companies using it in their logos.
So what am I getting at? Charles Ray chose to paint his sculpture of the demolished Pontiac gray because of its effects on people. Gray is a neutral color and raises indifference and boredom because--well, gray is boring when standing up against other colors. Look at the two images again: the completely and utterly destroyed van V.S. the gray Pontiac. The image of the van causes some reaction with the completely smashed front, bent up frame, and shattered windshield. You wonder about the situation of the crash: what happened to the driver? How did the crash happen? Where as, because of the gray, "Unpainted Sculpture" just becomes something to look at in passing with no particular care, unless you admire the meticulous process of its assembly. That's what "Unpainted Sculpture" is, a psychological experiment.

Image citations:

Unpainted Sculpture, 1997
Charles Ray
Fiberglass and paint

Van image taken from:

1 comment:

  1. Great commentary on this work – using color analysis to look for content in the work. Good external and internal information. Have you ever looked inside this piece – the crumpled foot carpet – like someone panicking to get away from death? My thought is by taking out the color – all we can look at is the shapes. I like your breakdown more.
    Good job.