Wednesday, November 30, 2016
SOLILOQUY: RYAN MCGINNESS
Another Soliloquy show has rolled out of the Public Trust Gallery and it took me a while to really have the work sink in for its significance in style and content. I admit, the moment I walked in, I was skeptical of the work. I was somewhat familiar with Ryan McGinness, but I had not experienced a piece up close. This is a monumental piece that gives you a broad view of the artist’s themes and ideas that he is exploring in just one painting.
My scepticism slowly melted away as I looked at each part of the painting and then sat down and took it in as a whole. I think my original misgivings stemmed from the fact that I thought I was going to see an art piece that was purely clever and derivative, but that’s not what was presented under close observation. Much of McGinnes’ work centers around logos, icons, and emoji style images. His images reflect a society that is replacing words with symbols to express their emotions and thoughts. McGinnes is tapping into the cell phone culture and the contemporary visual culture like a Pop artist in the 1960’s, where artists looked around and saw advertising everywhere. McGinnes appears to not only use these images that are out in the world, but he is also inventing symbols.
His figures look to be taken from Matisse cutouts, but upon closer inspection, I see these iconic images as more inspired by Matisse than directly taken. I was also thinking of Julian Opie’s figures as well. Both Opie and McGinness have observed the trend of images replacing words. Of course, the figures are just a small element of a larger image. In this work, you will find all kinds of simple shapes and simulated patterns. When put together, the painting looks like an artist’s studio. Work appears to be in progress, other artworks are depicted on the wall, and related objects you might find in a studio are on display. Other products are implied in the painting, like skateboards and t-shirts with McGinness’ designs. Branding artists, and placing images on products have become a trend that might seem distasteful to some, but consider what museums gift shops do with the work of dead artists. McGinness, like many of his contemporaries is just preempting a museum’s branding to help make a living as an artist. In a world where it gets less and less possible to rely on making art as an only source of income, selling product alongside original art has become a strategic tool.
Because there is only one piece on display, you might be thinking, “How is The Public Trust able to do this as a commercial gallery?” The economics of a gallery space is part publicity and part making work available. Luckily, for this show an inexpensive print is available, so you could come away with a McGinness piece even if it isn’t the original painting. Also, having McGinness show at The Public Trust will hopefully generate interest in the other artists Brain represents. Can you believe this is the gallery’s 5th Soliloquy show? This weekend on the 22nd will be the last time you can see this painting, so go out and sit with a painting for a while.