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With densely layered logos and black lights, arabesques and florescent colors, Manhattan-based Ryan McGinness breaks the visual and conceptual confines of art. This fall, visitors to the Cincinnati Art Museum view his most recent project presented as a black-lit room sized installation titled Ryan McGinness: Aesthetic Comfort. The project is on view in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Vance Waddell gallery Oct. 25 through Feb. 15.
“The moment visitors walk into the black lit gallery, they’ll see paintings exploding beyond the frame,” said Jéssica Flores, associate curator of Contemporary Art. “McGinness applies his techniques from skateboard culture and his training in graphic design – from his materials and techniques to the content of his work, pushing the boundaries is part of his everyday vocabulary.”
Growing up in the 1980s, a period largely formed by the language of marketing and branding, McGinness accepts logos as part of everyday life. He recognized the power of these icons as they were used to embellish otherwise ordinary objects like t-shirts, skateboards, and surfboards. Since he couldn’t afford these commodities himself, he made his own, mostly t-shirts and painted surfboards.
McGinness manipulates corporate logos and other recognized symbols to suit his needs, what he calls “shape-shifting” plastic imagery. He also incorporates traditional organic baroque forms into his work. In Aesthetic Comfort, McGinness employs these elements both on and spilling off the canvas. By using florescent pigments the works have the illusion of floating in the dark.
McGinness’ process is as layered as his work: old and new, commercial and fine art, popular and personal, analog and digital. Beginning with hand drawn sketches, he converts the images digitally into vector art, flat and simplified computer images. He then uses these vector files to create the stencils for silkscreen designs. His screen prints are positioned one on top of the other, creating dense compositions. McGinness describes these as a smash-up combines of painted drawings each individually replicated through the silk-screening process. Pushing his color palette in the last few years, McGinness experiments with metallic and pearlescent pigment. Aesthetic Comfort is his most recent iteration featuring florescent paints.
“McGinness is an artist who has actually influenced pop culture, not just the other way around,” said Flores. “His aesthetics are an act of rebellion as much as his subject matter. By incorporating blacklight, McGinness raises the bar so that the environment and the image require us to view the work first hand.”
McGinness studied graphic design and fine art at Carnegie Mellon University. His works are included in collections across the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Charles Saatchi Collection, and Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. His studio is located in New York, where he also lives.
Ryan McGinness: Aesthetic Comfort is on view Oct. 25 through Feb. 15. Admission is free.
Image: 2009.2; Ryan McGinness (American, b.1971); Triumph of Time, 2008; Painting, acrylic on canvas; 96 x 96 in. (243.8 x 243.8 cm); Museum Purchase: Fanny Bryce Lehmer Endowment; © Ryan McGinness