Boy with Frog
Cast stainless steel with acrylic polyurethane
244 × 75 × 105 cm (96 1/16 × 29 1/2 × 41 5/16 in.)
Commissioned by François Pinault to mark the re-opening of the Punta della Dogana in Venice, Charles Ray's sculpture Boy with Frog is notable for its monumentality and powerful message. It confirms Ray's ability to challenge the viewer's sense of reality and deploy real thought experiences in space.
A large-scale nude child observes a frog, a symbol of resurrection and metamorphosis, holding one of its legs in his closed fist. The pure curves and dazzling white recall several examples of ancient statuary, including sixth-century BCE kouros and the fifth-century BCE Spinario. It also recalls Donatello's David (15th century) brandishing Goliath's head.
Such sources put Ray’s sculpture in a fruitful dialogue with art history, but the rhetoric of Boy with Frog is innovative. Tension emerges between discovery and destruction, ingenuity and violence: the child can snuff out the frog's life at any moment. The viewer is on tenterhooks waiting for him to make up his mind.