Charles Ray • Hinoki • 2007 • Hinoki cypress, 172.7 x 762 x 233.7 cm (68 x 300 x 92 in.); 63.5 x 426.7 x 208.3 cm (25 x 168 x 82 in.); & approx. 60.5 x 400 x 200 cm (25 x 150 x 78 in.) • The Art Institute of Chicago, Through prior gifts of Mary and Leigh Block, Mr. and Mrs. Starrels, Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman, and Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. Friedman; restricted gift of Donna and Howard Stone. • image: Regen Projects
The Art Institute of Chicago just announced a bunch of acquisitions. The most note worthy of which is Charles Ray’s Hinoki which he spoke about a few years ago during his Speyer Contemporary Art Lecture. During the annual lecture, where a prominent contemporary artist is invited to speak on their work (past lecturers include: Kiki Smith, Brice Marden & Vija Celmins) Ray detailed the elaborate process he was in the midst of. The Art Institute’s press release details it further:
- Chicago-born sculptor Charles Ray, one of the preeminent artists of our time, has spent the past ten years creating Hinoki, a 38-foot-long, 2100-pound rendering of a felled oak tree. This meticulously crafted, complex sculpture is assembled from six, large wooden tubular sections, which are in turn constructed from hundreds of rectangular blocks carved by master Japanese craftsmen as a direct copy of an original fallen tree. The tremendous effort and scale of Hinoki make it the magnum opus of Ray’s oeuvre to date.
Possessed by the idea to make a sculpture of a felled tree, Ray searched for years for the perfect prototype. In 1998 he finally discovered his source material: a coastal oak in California that had come down decades earlier. Fascinated by the complex weathered surface of the log, Ray set out to reconstruct the object in exacting detail. Ray began the process by taking silicon molds of the log to create a fiberglass model, which was then cut into five barrel-like sections and sent to Osaka, Japan, where a team of six craftsman under the direction of master woodcarver Yoboku Mukoyshi set to work, using the model as a sort of drawing and carving from the inside out to render the tree in Japanese cypress (hinoki, in Japanese). The most minute attributes of the original tree—including worm holes, termite trails, even the marks of the chainsaw used to dismantle the oak—are faithfully reproduced. The result is a sculptural and philosophical conundrum: a full-sized recreation of a fallen tree, made by hand from wood.
The Art Institute also noted acquiring work by Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Doug Aitken, William Kentridge & Shirin Nashat. The Ray piece is most exciting and will make an excellent piece for the new wing. Just one question: how do you get it in the door?