Cordy Ryman’s new abstract paintings, sculptures and installations at DCKT continue his playful exploration of paint, color, two-by-fours and wooden constructions. According to the gallery’s press release, Ryman is “manipulating and reconstituting an inherited visual language, and defining himself in relation to it.” Well, I doubt Cordy thinks that much about his inheritance (Merrill Wagner and Robert Ryman are his parents) as he works; his spontaneous process and inexhaustible materiality manage to infuse his parents’ elegant Minimalism with a giddy, slapdash nonchalance.
Here is an excerpt from a conversation Ryman had with Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui last year.
Phong Bui (Rail): Can you recall any specific event, whether it was seeing a particular work of art, having a conversation with some artists, or simply accepting the strong urge, which drove you to come to terms with the prospect of being an artist? Ryman: There was no particular episode that I can pinpoint that made me think, “OK. This is what I want to do.” I didn’t plan on doing what I’m doing exactly. Although before high school, I wanted to make comics so that was the first indication of some sort….Anyway, in high school, I became interested in sculpture and was making a lot of very expressive figures, mostly faces with great anxieties. At that point I really felt that art was about emotion and should be expressed emotionally. I remember talking to my dad about art while trying to figure out what he was doing, and it was frustrating because I never got a clear answer. As a teenager there was something inaccessible about his work; I never understood what the big deal was. The fact that they were critically praised made it more difficult for me to access. I really wanted to understand it and figure it out, but since I was trying so hard I couldn’t. That process left me feeling as though I was missing something that everyone else seemed to get. Because if there was one thing that I knew it was the fact that his work was totally genuine… it wasn’t a gimmick. At some point I decided to leave it alone and stop trying to figure things out which in effect enabled the real breakthrough which came a little later. But now, when people don’t get my work, I can really understand. And I can really sympathize with them.“Cordy Ryman,” DCKT Gallery, New York, NY. Through February 14.