Try the new, softer side of Ryan Travis Christian in “Cryin Ryan,” his fourth solo exhibition at Western Exhibitions and the debut of his oil-on-canvas practice. The master of nonsense is coming out of the closet as a painter, swapping his graphite sfumato for slimy oils after ten years of sketching wickedly weird drawings on paper that were small enough for collectors to stash like guilty pleasures. Now, his biggest canvases are roughly the size of three men hugging, their surfaces glistening with wet punchlines that Ryan erects to tease the oversized political scandals that plague our happy nation. Sure, like a duck out of water Ryan is exposing himself by showing these first-ever, large-scale paintings, straying from the fertile marketplace of his small, perverted pictures. People (mostly his inner voice) warned him of going too big, of going out on a limb, of messing up, but Ryan decided to make oil paintings because he has always been an artist who pokes taboos and fluffs his intrusive thoughts, who goes against better taste in hot pursuit of a new type of feeling that we can only call tragic-erotic. Now, these obsessive micro-transgressions are magnified in girthy paint, public satire at impregnable scale.
Eagles are the new main character in Ryan’s paintings (and a few drawings) to besiege that sacred mascot of nationalism. (Dogs also make a cameo in the exhibition as shaggy metaphors of domestic bliss.) The eagle, of course, did not ask to be stuffed with murderous ideology, which is exactly why Ryan is drawn to them. He said, “Humanity has attached itself to birds in a really terrible way, and I’m going to continue that tradition.” So, in several artworks he turns the eagle on its head to celebrate its majestic anus. Why? Ryan has a way of bringing to light the dark side of life. He can be uncomfortably hilarious, but comedy is a great antidote to fear. Ryan’s new artworks prove that he is a seriously funny guy who speaks softly but carries a big stick.
-Jason Foumberg, Chicago, January 2021
The show will run from April 16 to May 29, 2021. There will not be an opening reception, but the show will be supplemented by robust media offerings on our website and Vimeo page. Private viewings for groups of 1 to 4 persons are available by appointment: reserve a time at exploretock.com/westernexhibitions.
Ryan Travis Christian’s solo and two-person shows include Over the Influence, Hong Kong; Ross+Kramer Gallery in New York, NY; Arsham/Fieg Gallery in New York, NY; Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, CA; the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, NC; and The Hole in New York. Christian has been included in group shows in Antwerp, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Detroit, Los Angeles, London, New York, Paris, Reykjavik, Rotterdam, San Francisco, and Toronto. His work has been written about in frieze, ArtNews, Art Papers, Juxtapoz, New American Paintings, Artsy, Artspace, Daily Serving, Indy Week and the Associated Press. DAZED recently named Christian as one of the “top ten artists working with monochrome.” He is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago and lives and works in the Chicagoland area.