Ink Drawing is a brilliant and characteristic work of Charles Ray. It is made from two of his favorite materials, ink and glass, and displays the formal purity and fundamental economy typical of some of his greatest pieces. Despite the work's breathtaking simplicity, it nevertheless raises new, striking questions about perception and art.
In Ink Drawing, Ray has pressed ink between a sheet of glass and a steel background. The ink naturally settles to a level of equilibrium, thereby dividing the work into two zones, the upper portion of transparent glass, and the lower portion filled with opaque black ink. The two zones are rectangles, and the work has the geometric purity also found in some of Ray's other pieces, such as Rotating Circle and Ink Cube. Moreover, in its classic monumentality and Neo-Platonic ideality, Ink Drawing occupies an important place in the tradition of Modern art that begins with Mondrian and continues with Rothko and Marden.
Ray calls the work a drawing, a categorization justified by the ink between the glass. But he could almost have called it a painting or sculpture just as well. That is to say, in type and media, Ink Drawing is utterly new and it defies standard definition. In this regard, it is like some of his other "sculptures" such as Ink Cube, Tabletop and Bath.
Alberti, the Renaissance architect and theorist, famously said that a painting is like a window. Ink Drawing is one of the few works in the history of western art that is literally a window, and plays off the Albertian idea of representation in the most brilliant manner.
Many of Ray's finest pieces are characterized by the supreme balance of their elements, which are held in a state of tension or equilibrium. Even his earliest pieces exhibit these traits, for example: Untitled (Bricks and Sawhorse), 1973, and Untitlted (Performance Sculpture with Plank), 1974. In Ink Drawing Ray beautifully combines ink, air and glass in a perfectly balanced whole.