Ryman and Barnes

(above, untitled, 1965)




(above, from Series #34, 2005)

Images from www.artnet.com

Yesterday at work (Barnes Foundation) I met a scion of art of the last century, Robert Ryman. He was in town for a lecture, and the opening of an exhibit at PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) in Philly, featuring his work from 2002, Philadelphia Prototype. That work had been previously been commissioned by Larry Becker Contemporary Art, North Second Street in Philadelphia. Mr. Ryman was accompanied at the Barnes by Larry and Heidi, the proprietors.

I exchanged a hello with Mr. Ryman in room XIX, telling him I was a great admirer of his work...he seemed genuinely surprised that I knew of his work, but our conversation was quickly usurped by the presence of all the fine Matisses in the room, whom I found out Mr. Ryman adores. So, that was that. I've had more interaction, however, with many of his works; ranging from 1960's to 1980's work, in various Philadelphia private collections.

Robert Ryman is someone I admire for even more than just his seminal work (which alone would be enough): as well for the fact he never had any "formal" training in art-making. As I heard it, he picked up brushes in the 1960's, and hasn't stopped since, hoeing new rows ever since. This lends a freshness to all his, especially early, work.

Speaking of rows, for those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, the paintings (and he also makes prints, and some works which might more accurately be called works on paper), range from earlier pieces which are like a delicate, snow-covered plowed field (ala Warren Rohrer); to more deconstructivist (as far as painting goes, anyway) works from the 1980's which are concerned with how a piece interacts with the wall and its own hardware. Pieces such as the Philadelphia Prototype examine how painting might look, by using simply the hardened paint or medium as the film which holds paper or mylar to the wall. Essentially, though, all manner of whites reign supreme.

I've included (above) two works to give you an idea of what it looks like. But (duhh) you need to see it in person. The DIA:Beacon center has a great collection, and of course he occasionally can be seen in Philly at Larry Becker - and of course now at PAFA.

http://www.artnet.com/gallery/135/larry-becker-contemporary-art.html

Rob Matthews  – (Sunday, 15 October, 2006)  

I think Ryman went (for a while) to the college that is now Tennessee Tech in Cookeville,TN. Despite having a good music therapy program, I don't think of TN Tech as much of an art school.

Did you get to the lecture on Wednesday? I was teaching so I missed it.

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