Ryan McGinness' approach to art and the art world is sardonic yet earnest, a mature version of the rebellious ethos that defined his youth in 90s skate culture. He’s soft-spoken and very tall, a gentle giant from Virgina Beach, long and far away from his current space on the top floor of a six-story former factory in New York's Chinatown.
Beckett Mufson, “Ryan McGinness Thinks You're Looking at Art Wrong,” Creator’s Project, April 22, 2016
For this Tuesday Evenings presentation, Ryan McGinness structured his lecture around a single painting. This painting, like the lecture, is titled The Logic of this Work Is Stronger than the Logic of the World in Which it Exists. Using the painting to gain access and insight into basically every aspect of his studio practice was a clever matrix.
Getting to the title of the work and the lecture, McGuinness’s need for logic and order is immediately apparent in both the work and his studio. The chaos of the world is neatly reduced and designed into an order with which the artist can communicate. Every resulting symbol and sign functions as a component of a larger vocabulary that serves as the material of paintings, sculptures, installations, and products. Vogue magazine crowned McGuinness “a leading pioneer of the semiotics.” That is no small claim, and I have to say it rings true in the paintings. They are an abundance of contemporary hieroglyphics representing pop culture and its foundations. However, what I found most interesting in McGuinness’s lecture was his critical eye for what it means to be an artist and designer within our current moment.
This is most readily evident in the artist’s numerous books, which delve into each aspect of the work. For example, Studio Manual and Sketchbook Selections 2000–2012 address the how and what of his practice. But there are also the more political and philosophical publications such as Sponsorship, The Fine Art of Corporate Sponsorship/The Corporate Sponsorship of Fine Art and Everything is Everywhere. The former incorporates interviews and essays by other artists, and the latter functions as a bombardment of images and ideas from McGuinness’s own practice and includes notations such as “Art is mind backup” and “life imitates art.”
The books and so much more are available on the artist’s website, ryanmcginness.com. He can also be found on Instagram, @McGinnessWorks. A video podcast of this Tuesday Evenings lecture can be found at here.
Image credit: The Logic of this Work Is Stronger than the Logic of the World in which it Exists, 2016. Acrylic on linen. Quadriptych, overall 84 x 240 inches (213.4 x 609.6 cm), each 84 x 60 inches (213.4 x 152.4 cm). Photo courtesy of Ryan McGinness Studios, Inc. / Art Resource, NY © Ryan McGinness / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York