born 1967

michael ray charles The art of Michael Ray Charles has been concerned with exploring the legacy of historic stereotypes related to Americans of African descent. In his brightly colored paintings and prints, he employs such characters as Sambo, Aunt Jemima, and Uncle Tom to comment on contemporary racial attitudes. Given the potentially incendiary nature of these stereotypes, Charles has frequently been at the center of controversy. In a 1999 ARTnews article—which included this portrait by French photographer Patrick Demarchelier—Charles explained, "Every time I have a show there are some black folks complaining." Yet his success in eliciting strong reactions from his viewers seems to please Charles, who added that he finds this work "beautiful." Charles has taught at the University of Texas at Austin since 1993.

Patrick Demarchelier (born 1943)
Gelatin silver print, 1996
Published March 1999
Patrick Demarchelier; courtesy Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York City

©1996 Patrick Demarchelier

Portrait of the Art World: A Century of ARTnews Photographs
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution