Through July 29
By Gabriela Vainsencher
00: Introduction Track
NARRATOR: Welcome to Ryan McCartney’s exhibition breaks to make, at Tiger Strikes Asteroid gallery. We will begin our tour standing in front of times two (paranoid behavior), which is facing you as you walk into the room. When you are ready, press 1.
01: times two (paranoid behavior)
Fade in sound: soft static noise
Fade out static, fade in NARRATOR
NARRATOR: Online cat videos are a huge success because of their protagonists’ singular combination of adorability and complete deadpan while performing hilarious antics. The two green dots that star in times two are squished into comic-book ellipses by the force of their movement. As they ride on yellow whooshes out of static-noise black, they embody the frantic back-and-forth our eyes and brain do when trying to determine whether something is flat or not.
Perched on its white wall mount, times two successfully blends the languages of minimalism and cartoons to captivate its viewers. Also, and perhaps more significantly in the context of this show, times two simply tells a story about painting turning into sculpture. We will reflect more on this theme as we go on with our tour. To continue, press 2.
02: some architecture
Fade in sound: Cheesy Renaissance-fair music
Fade out music, fade in NARRATOR
NARRATOR: While we’re on the subject of painting turning into sculpture, let’s consider some architecture, with its skull, eggs and feathers on a chair, as a still life. McCartney helps it shed its previous role as painting’s subject matter by sanding down layers of paint and wood-grain texture, thus offering a smoothed topography of the history of these objects. He uses the process of sanding down both to erase (the artist’s hand, chiseling marks) and to reveal (layers of color, underpainting). This same tactic is used in the painting hours are hours, which we will arrive at when you press 3.
03: Walking, walking (on sixes), walking, walking (on the heel), and hours are hours
Fade in sound: forest sounds, large carnivore’s approaching footsteps on dry leaves
Fade out sounds, fade in NARRATOR
NARRATOR: The black markings interrupting our view of yellow foliage in walking, walking (on sixes) evolved from the incised surfaces of McCartney’s older paintings, which he made on wood. These markings, now appearing as paint on canvas, seem to tell us to not think of Alex Katz or Luc Tuymans, but rather to consider the space between these influences and McCartney’s current concerns; how acts of addition can decrease and block, and acts of subtraction can fill in and add meaning to an artwork. Turning around to look at this work’s blue brother, walking, walking (from the heel), we are further blocked off from enjoying the view of the painting by what only looks like bad brushwork. Considered in the context of the joke in times two about painting escaping its 2D prison, we must assume McCartney is again telling us: “don’t buy the story this object is trying to sell you!”
Towards the window on the same wall, the intimately-sized hours are hours is the painting conclusion of the two large walking, walking pieces. It contains two kinds of layers: the first is a painted sky of the dusk-turning-into-night variety; the second layer is revealed by injuring the painted layer, sanding down its highest paint peaks to uncover a previous history of acidic yellows and greens. Hours are hours is an amalgam of McCartney’s painterly and sculptural attitudes, and as such, it leads us to the final stop on this tour, sistered. To complete the tour and hear about this piece, press 4.
Sound: The sound of a tree falling in the forest, unseen.
Fade out sound, fade in NARRATOR
NARRATOR: As we approach sistered, let’s consider it from two perspectives: First, seen directly from above, we assume its top is scorched and scoured, a carbonized echo to both the composition in walking walking (from the heel) and the static-noise-black of times two. Actually, it is not burnt at all, but carefully incised by the artist, and painted black with ink. Once more painting is crystallized into sculpture, physical texture turned into visual pattern. For the second perspective we will crouch down and look through the holes bored into this block of wood. We are seeing not just the past of McCartney’s work, when he drilled holes into his wooden paintings, but also into its future, in which McCartney breaks painting and sculpture, in an attempt to make his next step.
Gabriela Vainsencher is an Argentinean-born Israeli artist who recently moved to Philadelphia from Brooklyn. Her most recent solo shows were in May 2012 at Recession Art gallery (New York) and the Fresh Paint art fair (Tel Aviv).