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On-site Interview : Will Ryman

Paul Kasmin Gallery

Frieze Sculpture Park 2011

Pippa Jane Wielgos

This year’s Frieze brings back one of our favorite aspects of the fair - the highly-touted Sculpture Park. London Correspondent Pippa Jane Wielgos talked with playwright-turned-sculptor Will Ryman ahead of the Fair’s opening.

Will Ryman (41) was a playwright before becoming an artist. Having worked as a sculptor for the last nine years, he moved from writing to sculpture “as he was trying to invent a new style of theatre” by removing the actors and the script to sculpt a play reliant on the theatrical device to let the play’s scenery tell the whole story.

His commentary is a reference to the human condition, stemming from absurdist philosophy and theatre, expressed through found objects and construction materials assembled in a “three-dimensional play.”

His current work "Icon", a 30ft x 10ft-wide red monochromatic stainless steel cast and fibreglass resin work, featuring handmade blossoms and a machine-bent stem, is part of the Frieze 2011 Sculpture Park in Regent's Park (London). The work evolved from: his site-specific, public installation sculpture displayed at Park Avenue, New York, May 2011 called “Roses”, which was a series of 25ft-tall giant roses with 38 blossom sculptures and 20 individual rose petal sculptures dramatically positioned outside Park Avenue; from “A New Beginning”, which made its debut at the Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea (New York); and from other works such as the grotesque re-imaging of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” on display in his studio in Brooklyn.

The message of his new work at Frieze is about the “de-sublimation of the rose”, or as he describes, “the changing of the meaning of the symbol,” which he claims is his commentary on “commercialism.” The sculpture's dramatic, monochromatic red colour and scale, he says, makes it an “abstract shape” and an “iconic global symbol” for the “elite, for sophistication, romance and for commercialism.”

Through abstract deconstruction, Ryman endeavors to provide the viewer with a "visceral experience," saying, “I am not conveying international commercial comment, but taking the symbol away and making it a beautiful object by changing the meaning.”

He reputedly said of his earlier work, “I like public sculpture because it exists outside the gallery world, which can be pretty elitist.” He said that outdoor installations reach a broader audience as “the focus tends to be more on interaction than intellectualisation.”

Will Ryman follows in a family tradition. He is the son of Robert Ryman (81), identified with the movements of monochrome painting, minimalism and conceptual art, who is best known for abstract, white-on-white paintings, and who was influenced by such artists as Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Philip Guston, who had already reduced painting to its essences. He reputedly said, "There is never any question of what to paint only how to paint."

Among other venues, Will Ryman’s work has been featured at 7 World Trade Center, Marlborough Gallery, Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Inc. in New York, as well as at Howard House in Washington. His art installations have been displayed in the Saatchi Gallery in England and Galerie Bernd Kluser in Germany. Ryman is currently represented by the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York.

“Icon” will tour to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Coral Gables, Florida, from December 1, 2011 - May 31, 2012. This will be followed by a solo show for the artist at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, February 16, 2012 - March 24, 2012. 

Other artists whose work is showcased in this year’s Sculpture Park 2011 are Neham Choksi, Johan Cretan, Claudia Fontes, Alicia Framis, Tom Friedman, Gimhonssok, Des Hughes, Thomas Houseago, Eva Eva Koťátková & Petr Koťátko, Kik Smith and Gavin Turk.

Published : "Mutual Art", October 2011.

© Pippa Jane Wielgos.

Above Left: "Icon", Frieze Sculpture Park 2011.


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