Ryan Travis Christian’s surreal personal narratives are fueled by the absurdity of life in his small, suburban-Chicago hometown. The untidy lifestyles of contemporary humanity are all hanging out, including heavy petting, drugs and alcohol, beaten-up cars, fireworks and death. Inspired by Ub Iwerks, George Condo, the Hairy Who and— new to this body of work— vintage political cartoons and hand-drawn animation, Christian comes to terms with his sources sordid past while embracing their richness and flavor.
In his third solo show at Western Exhibitions, “This Shit Is For The Birdies,” Christian’s idiosyncratic vision has expanded to include commentary on current crises in the nation and world at large. Tackling hot political issues such as immigration, depression and the American dream, Christian’s historical precedents become a mirror reflecting many common concerns of the present, warts and all.
Musing on the technological and material obsolescence of his inspiration, Christian’s recent work doubles down on the paradoxical relationship between childish cartoons and ominous messages. Using dense layers of graphite pencil to create graphic images of condoms, brick houses, and Mickey Mouse, his high contrast figures are rendered in slow motion and set against hazy sfumato-esque landscapes and inside of melting, skewed spaces. A series of small daily drawings touch upon a vast array of topics, such as the economy, violence, the environment, gender, class, hope, doubt, and the afterlife; a large floor sculpture takes the form of a drinking bird toy, that perpetual motion gag gift that mimics a bird bobbing for a drink; and for the first time, monochromatic patterned paintings feature vibrating optics, quivering silhouettes and cream cheese smears of titanium white oil paint.
Ryan Travis Christian’s solo shows include the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, NC; Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco, Halsey McKay in East Hampton, NY and Cooper Cole in Toronto, and has been included in group shows in London, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Dallas and Los Angeles. His work has been written about in frieze, art ltd, Art Papers, New American Paintings, Daily Serving, Indy Week and the Associated Press. New City named Christian as one of Chicago’s “Breakout Artists” for 2010 and named by the same publication as one of Chicago’s “Top 50 Artists’ Artists” in 2012. 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.