Paul Ryan is showing seven paintings at Reynolds Gallery until the end of the month, I guess for another week.
All of the paintings are long and narrow, like a narrower David Reed, a format which for me always brings to mind Japanese e-maki scrolls and an automatic invocation of narrative. I think most of the paintings in this show are 12 x 90 inches. Almost all of them consist of a band of six or seven vertical biomorphic shapes, each shape reaching and seeming to continue beyond both the top and bottom of the canvas. The paintings are mostly bright, all the shapes within a canvas are the same color and thinly painted over a lighter ground; vinyl-vivid, for example, has red-orange shapes over a yellow ground.
There is a bit of play, in parts, of positive and negative space, but because the slightly darker vertical shapes are so obviously the positives, painted over a brighter ground, it doesn't happen too much. They seem mostly playful and figurative - although in lift here and be happy I see a dog's head, maybe a German Shepherd, with a bird in it's mouth, and introducing attention, one of the most boring (and I think the only one without a clear band of vertical shapes), is like a too long and narrow Pangeic world map, in Baldessari orange.
I attended Paul's talk and he spoke a little about text, unfortunately I didn't take any notes and can't remember too many details of what was said. I do read most of these paintings from left to right, and one painting in particular, funny blue day, the only painting in which the vertical shapes do not reach the top edge of the canvas, looked like primitive simple Kanji. That painting and a couple others, with the shapes twisting across the canvas like motion study Muybridge, also brought to mind flickering candles and Degas ballerinas.
All of the shapes are made from cutouts from fashion magazines, which Paul supposedly has no interest in and uses for no reason other than that they are available. I couldn't tell and don't care. What I most remember from the talk is his stating a number of times that "concept follows form", something that seemed clear. If anything, any concept part seems like something played up a bit after the fact. Paul's wife Dinah Ryan's statement for the show claims that something about the paintings "forces attention to the ideas suggested by fashion's baroque elaboration and its pervasive, cultural grip". Uh? Nothing about the paintings or anything he said would lead one to think that. Paul's paintings are certainly okay, but might be stronger if he decided to abandon the less-than-barely-there (approval seeking?) concepts and more fully embrace his obvious interests in color, shape, space, form, and brushstrokes.
UPDATE: These Robert Moskowitz paintings, especially this one, remind me a little of Paul's and are a better example of concept and form working together. Maybe if Paul tried working from a source material that interested/motivated/inspired him?
Paul and Dinah Ryan both write for Art Papers and co-curated Adaptation Syndrome. Paul Ryan is also the replacement for recently retired Morris Yarovsky at VCU.
Paulette Roberts-Pullen on Paul Ryan for Style Weekly here.