Ryan Brown “To Hell With It All, Let’s Pray That It Lasts”

Y Gallery (319 Grand St.)

poster for Ryan Brown “To Hell With It All, Let’s Pray That It Lasts”
[Image: Ryan Brown "Untitled Blue and White" (detail) (2016) Acrylic on canvas, 93 x 93 in.]

This event has ended.

“If this epoch is crazy about apocalyptic dramatizations, which make up a large share of film production, there’s more involved than the aesthetic enjoyment which the distraction authorizes… Only universal destruction, the death of everything, comes close the giving the suburban employee the feeling he’s alive, since he’s the least alive of all the creatures. ‘To hell with it all’ and ‘let’s pray that it lasts’ are the two sighs heaved alternately by the same civilized distress.”
-The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends

Y Gallery presents a new series of work from Ryan Brown, “To Hell With It All, Let’s Pray That It Lasts”, curated by Matthew Blair. The paintings in this exhibition were all created by a machine of the artist’s own design. They traffic in the significance and historicism of the drip, the concept of expression in paint, while paradoxically invoking the grid, the slight variations inherent in mass production, and a visual repetition reminiscent of the current apotheosis of branding: the so-called step-and-repeat.

Can there be such a thing as mechanical expressionism? Or, one might ask: why create paintings with a machine at all? RB’s painting machine (which is kinetic and non-electric) exists as a locus of intensities; as with all machines, it’s existence is the very essence of purpose. But in these massive paintings, this purposeful device is consigned to create that which notoriously has no purpose at all. This dislocation of effort allows the artist to move in a space where “the work is beyond being good or bad because I am so removed from it. It just happens. I am basically displaying the potential of a system. Operation instead of inspiration.”

Art history too, would offer plenty of reasons as to why one might paint with a machine. The cult of veneration for individualistic mark-making traces its roots far beyond the Western tradition, to the very origins of calligraphy in ancient China.

The splattered patterns on RB’s canvases exist in a strange and uncharted territory between the gestural mark-making of the Abstract Expressionists (Jackson Pollock, most glaringly) and the machine driven repetition of Pop Art (in particular, Andy Warhol’s early silk screened works). In a sense, these are the two contradictory legacies that are forever portrayed in art history books as existing in opposition to one another. Yet something in RB’s approach synthesizes the dissonance: “The device was born of feeling lost, with no idea in mind of what to create as far as a visual image is concerned. The impulse arose to create a machine that could resolve this problem for me by generating painterly marks, much like a printer. I am very invested in engineering the unique design of the mark by adjusting the consistency of the paint, the speed, length and height of the trajectory, etc.”

RB has created a machine for making paintings and a method by which to use this machine. He has taken the very essence of expression and made it something mechanical, something rote.

The creative gusto of mid-20th-century New York is analyzed, broken down and refracted into a methodology, an application of the grid, a metamorphosis of the expressive mark, the proto-masculine drip, into something more “by numbers”, something with a whiff of the step-and-repeat, and so the paintings are also dripping in satire, in all the unsettledness of someone who has made an awful discovery. And yet, in spite of all this, they radiate an irrepressible beauty. It’s hard not to see it when you look at them.



from September 10, 2016 to October 09, 2016

Opening Reception on 2016-09-10 from 18:00 to 21:00


Ryan Brown

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