Ryan McGinness wants you to see his '#metadata' in person for a full effect
By Deborah Vankin
Ryan McGinness' new work in "#metadata," on view at Kohn Gallery, is nothing if not dense — with brilliant color and surreal imagery.
Working with sketches he recorded over five years — incorporating symbols drawn from his dreams, pop culture and everyday observations — the artist made dizzying silk-screen designs. Then he bolted together castaway wood silk-screen frames to build 6-foot-square picture planes, which he then painted on.
About 15 of these freestanding "contraptions," as he calls them, form McGinness' installation "Screen Combines," a maze that fills one of the gallery's exhibition spaces. Each dead end in the maze is a micro exhibition space unto itself, featuring small paintings on the wall, studies for McGinness' larger, more traditional works also in the gallery.
Adjacent to the maze is "Studio Views," featuring nine acrylic paintings on linen. The 7-foot-tall paintings are self-referential, as they feature paintings-within-the-painting that evoke McGinness' previous works as well as elements of his studio, such as the pattern of his wood floor and his art tools. Other artists show up in the combine designs. A shoe made partly of chess pieces is a reference to early Andy Warhol drawings; the image of a stabbed hand balancing dice references a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
It's the artist's brazen use of color, however, that's most striking. McGinness uses multiple types of paint, including pearlescent and fluorescent paint, color-shifting "interference paint" and metallic paint. The dazzling mix of color and texture is a call to action: These are works meant to be seen in person as opposed to reproduced in a magazine.
"This body of work, in '#metadata,' it came out of a frustration that most artwork these days is reproduced without the metadata," McGinness says, referring to how publications run images of paintings without full caption information about the work's size or materials. "What we're left with is art as a purely retinal experience, without context."
Metadata are so important to McGinness, he's included heavily captioned process shots on his Instagram feed, @mcginnessworks, which he considers a satellite to the exhibition providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his studio.
Still, an IRL (in real life) encounter is preferred, he says.
"I think it's important to force a real world viewing of the work. A lot of these paints used in '#metadata' have pigment properties that can't accurately be reproduced," he says. "You have to see it in real life to fully appreciate it."