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Michael Ray Charles in "Consumption"

Michael Ray Charles is filmed on location at his home and studio in Austin, Texas. Through his studies of advertising, the minstrel tradition, and blackface, Charles seeks to deconstruct and subvert images of blackness through painting.

“I’ve been called a sellout. People question my blackness. A lot of people accuse me of perpetuating a stereotype,” he says. “I think there’s a fine line between perpetuating something and questioning something. And I like to get as close to it as possible.” Pointing out items from his collection of memorabilia, Charles traces the transformation of stereotypes in his work. The segment concludes at an exhibition of Charles’ work in New York City.

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Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Executive Producer: Susan Dowling. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Production Coordinator: Laura Recht. Researcher: Quinn Latimer & Wesley Miller. Director: Deborah Shaffer. Editor: Amanda Zinoman. Director of Photography: Ken Kobland & Joel Shapiro. Additional Photography: Adam Larsen, Laura Recht, & Deborah Shaffer. Assistant Camera: Jarred Alterman, Steve Carrillo, Brian Hwang, Alan Pierce, Beth Puorro, & Kipjaz Savoie. Sound: Rick Albright, Stuart Deutsch, Andrew Garrison, Steven Robinson, Gary Silver, & Bill Wander. Gaffer/Grip: Ned Hallick, John Roche, & Wilson Waggoner. Production Assistant: Steve Carrillo, Courtney Harrell, & Kevin Tierney. Animation Stand Photographer: Marcos Levy & City Lights. Assistant Avid Editor: Matt Prinzig & Kate Schmitz.

Introductory Segment | Artwork: Barbara Kruger. Cast: John McEnroe.

Mel Chin Houston Segment | Director: James Harithas. Producer: Manuel Pellicer & Kathleen Pellicer. Director of Photography/Sound/Producer: Wes Sandel.

Devil’s Night Commercial | Director: Helen Nagge. Cast: Bubba Crutchfield. Director of Photography: Adam Larsen. Sound Recordist/Producer: Mikael Manoukian. Location Manager: Bob Sargent. Package Design: Erick Robel. Driver/Special Effects: Bob Bass.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Design and Direction: Open, New York. Animation, Visual Effects & Compositing: Spontaneous Combustion. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie & Frame:Runner NYC. Composer: Peter Foley. Music Supervisor: John Yaffé. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, & Dog Bark Sound. Sound Mix: Tony Volante & Soundtrack, New York. Post-Production Supervisor: Michael Weingrad & Keir Randall.

Artworks courtesy of: Matthew Barney; Michael Ray Charles; Mel Chin; Andrea Zittel; Andrea Rosen Gallery; Frederieke Taylor Gallery; Barbara Gladstone; & Tony Shafrazi Gallery.

Special Thanks: Fareed Armaly; Art Car Museum; Anne C. Baker; Alison Beall; Jamie Bennett; William Bush; Dr. Rufus L. Chaney; Cincinatti Art Museum; City Lights; Susan Delson; David Ebner; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum; Thomas G. Grace; Guggenheim Museum; Russell Hassell; John McEnroe Gallery; KNOWMAD Confederacy; Spike Lee; Bruce Mac Corkindale; Steve Malmberg, Queens Museum; Cara Mertes; Tom Miller; Margarita Moreno; Carter Mull; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Chris Pullman; Project Row House; Nick Robinson; Chelsea Romersa; Matt D. Ryle; Tamberelli Video; TenniSport; University of Texas, Austin; & Darin Webb.

Interns: Maytal Ahrony, Joyce Alcantara, Christina Darcy, Leslie Fritz, Johanna Goldfeld, Susannah Gust, Sage Lehman, Kelly McCoy, Genevieve Mercatante, Jeff Seelbach, & Stacy Wu.

Public Relations: Kelly & Salerno Communications. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Season 1 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by Robert Lehman Foundation, PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, The Allen Foundation for the Arts, The Broad Art Foundation, The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, Bagley Wright Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and The Foundation-to-Life.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Michael Ray Charles

Michael Ray Charles’s graphically styled paintings investigate racial stereotypes drawn from a history of American advertising, product packaging, billboards, radio jingles, and television commercials. Caricatures of African American experience, such as Aunt Jemima, are represented in Charles’s work as ordinary depictions of blackness, yet are stripped of the benign aura that lends them an often-unquestioned appearance of truth. In each of his paintings, notions of beauty, ugliness, nostalgia, and violence emerge and converge, reminding us that we cannot divorce ourselves from a past that has led us to where we are, who we have become, and how we are portrayed.

“I think there’s a fine line between perpetuating something and questioning something. And I like to get as close to it as possible.”

Michael Ray Charles

Essence of a History

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Jack Whitten

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Kerry James Marshall

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Advertising and Art

Artist Michael Ray Charles discusses his work’s relation to advertising and familiar images in popular culture.

More from "Consumption"

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By Barbara Kruger with John McEnroe

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