photo of Michael Ray Charles

Michael Ray Charles

The University of Texas

Michael Ray Charles is a Professor in the School of Design and Arts and Entertainment and the department of African and African diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Charles is an influential and innovative contemporary American artist who lectures and exhibits nationally and internationally. He is known for his thought-provoking and visually striking works that engage with complex themes of race, identity, consumerism, and cultural history. Born on December 8, 1967, in Lafayette, Louisiana, Charles has emerged as a prominent figure in visual art, challenging viewers to confront uncomfortable truths through his unique artistic approach.
Charles's artistic journey began with his early years spent in St. Martinsville, LA, where he developed a fascination with the power of imagery and its role in shaping societal attitudes. This fascination led him to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Subsequently, he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston, where he further honed his skills and began to explore the use of art as a medium for social commentary.
One of the defining aspects of Charles's work is his exploration of African American stereotypes in American culture. His provocative use of imagery from historical advertisements, minstrel shows, and consumer products has sparked essential dialogues about the enduring impact of racial caricatures and the commodification of Black bodies. Charles takes these elements and subverts them, recontextualizing these images to provoke a critical examination of America's racial history and contemporary culture. His art has become a powerful lens through which viewers can reevaluate the symbols, messages, and narratives that have shaped our collective consciousness.

Charles gained national and international recognition for his compelling works, with his pieces exhibited in renowned museums, galleries, and institutions worldwide. His artwork has appeared in significant solo exhibitions, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. His thought-provoking pieces have earned him a place in numerous group exhibitions and have been included in the collections of esteemed institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The National Endowment for the Arts and The Bush Artist Fellowship, St. Paul, MN, are among the many creative cultural entities he has served as a panelist and juror. In 2001, he was among the first artists showcased in the PBS series "ART 21," highlighting top artists of the 21st century. A 2003 article in Black Issues in Higher Education acknowledged Mr. Charles as one of the leading young African American scholars.

Segments on PBS, Canadian and German television, and collaborations with distinguished director Spike Lee have highlighted Charles' work and ideas. Charles' work is included in an exhibition titled "Spike Lee's Influences" at the Brooklyn Museum. In 2019, he was selected as an American Academy of Rome recipient.

Beyond his impact on the art world, Charles' work has influenced a broader discourse on race, culture, and representation in America. His commitment to addressing these issues through his art has resonated with scholars, curators, and fellow artists, who have recognized his work's importance in challenging preconceptions and igniting conversations about race and identity. Charles's distinctive and influential style inspires new generations of artists and activists who seek to address the complexities of race and culture through the visual arts.
In addition to his artistic practice, Michael Ray Charles has been an educator, sharing his knowledge and insights with students as a professor of art at the University of Texas. His dedication to nurturing the next generation of artists and thinkers underscores his commitment to promoting creative and intellectual discourse and change.

Michael Ray Charles's artistic journey is a testament to the transformative power of art, challenging us to confront our past, question our present, and imagine a more equitable future. His bold, confrontational work has left an indelible mark on the art world and popular culture, encouraging us all to engage in critical conversations about race, identity, and culture. Through his innovative, thought-provoking creations, he has become an influential artist whose artwork plays a pivotal role in the broader struggle for racial equality and social justice in the United States and beyond.

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

Events featuring Michael Ray Charles
Events featuring Michael Ray Charles