Cronin Contemporary is pleased to announce Speak Up, Speak Out, an exhibition of Ryan Cronin’s work in response to the current state of affairs in the United States. The show will feature a series of paintings, including Speak Up and Obama which act as reflections on the many transitions happening in America. Additionally the gallery will be hosting a letter writing campaign on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 from 2 until 6 pm to encourage citizens to speak out and to provide a space for individuals to write to their elected officials and let their voices be heard. In these tumultuous times Cronin Contemporary strives to open a dialogue within the community and address social issues through art.
In this exhibition selected works will explore what defines America in 2017 and what values we hold dear as individuals. With vibrant colors and graphic marks, the power of the paintings lie in their dichotomous nature of stark simplicity and nuanced complexity. By including text and iconic symbols that are loaded with cultural associations Ryan inserts meaning into his paintings, but leaves them open enough for viewers to create their own narrative. With this free association of meaning, observers can project their own beliefs onto the work and participate in a larger discussion.
In Obama, a work that is more overtly political, the elements of composition allude to campaign signs and even lawn signs that individual citizens display in support of their candidate. By using a bold typography for ‘Obama’ at the top of the image, Ryan draws attention to the iconic president and explicitly sets a point of reference for the work. There are also direct allusions to the democratic party through the inclusion of donkeys and ‘Big Left.’ As an artistic homage to the former president, the work also appears as a sort of advertisement for Obama’s inauguration and premonition for his experience as president. The date of his first term inauguration is listed, alongside red boxing gloves that dually represent the victory of winning the election and the continued fight of enacting policy while working with Republican lawmakers. Boxing gloves, particularly ones rendered in a sketchy manner and with stars are reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s visual vocabulary. As Basquiat was a highly celebrated black artist and Barack Obama was America’s first African-American president it seems all so appropriate to draw these parallels.
Another work featured in the exhibition is Speak Up, a painting Ryan created years ago but seems extremely relevant now. Again Ryan features a strong font and flat layout that recalls his early work and importance of signage in his oeuvre. The colorful speech bubbles and assertive expression urges individuals to become involved in the democratic process and let their voices be heard. The vibrant colors in varying hues are visually arresting but are also suggestive of the many individuals with potentially differing opinions who have the potential to share their ideas with a wider community.
In El Bandido, a recent work Ryan made in response to the current political situation he addresses tensions through a gentler and more comic angle. Upon first glance the work appears cartoonish and almost child-like, with bright primary colors and featuring what appears to be a criminal or bandit in an outlandish getaway car. The figure is reminiscent of a classic criminal drawing type, with a menacing grin, eye mask and gun. Additionally the figure has blank features and no set identity, which allows viewers to project their own ideas of evil onto. However the painting does have violent undertones and a graphic, sinister edge. By mediating complex issues through art, and even art that is bright and whimsical in nature, Ryan creates an approachable work which almost welcomes viewers to engage in dialogue. While Untitled may initially appear as an almost slap-stick of conflict, the simple nature is loaded with meaning and varying channels in which to begin analysis. The unusual shape of the board highlights Ryan’s background with multi-media works and product design.
Since the early 1990s Ryan has been approaching his practice from a place of inclusivity and cultural awareness. Engaging in a dialogue surrounding the accessibility of art, Ryan expands on the legacies of Robert Indiana, Philip Guston and David Hockney. With his distinctly signature style and a desire to assimilate icons from his New York community into a visual vocabulary, Ryan draws upon street signs and cultural markers as sources of inspiration. Additionally the exhibited works stem from a conscientious appreciation of political and cultural events, and the liberal leanings of his state. As a painter, sculptor, muralist and product designer he appropriates text and figures from his surroundings to reconfigure the world through art. With a history in guerrilla art practices, where he often placed works in the public realm to provoke discussion, this show is very much informed by his desire to tackle social issues through art.
Ryan Cronin was born in 1972 in the front seat of a late 60's Plymouth station wagon in New York. He continues to live and work in New York. He has exhibited his work in galleries, museums, and art fairs throughout the United States and has completed several large scale murals including the silo at Tuthilltown Spirits/Hudson Valley Whiskey and a mural in Wynwood during Art Basel.