4
Jul 04

White Pride. Ryman before he discovered white on white

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 444 views

White Pride. Ryman before he discovered white on white

Robert Ryman is known as white on white, 30 years of painting nothing but white on white, the pure minimalist who concentrates not on the artists hand but on the nature of pigment and what that pigment is placed on.

There is refusal to accept this work, and the work of his fellow abstract minimalists as having as history or a future, it is an endless zen exercises in now. So when their history is known, it blows down a house of cards. They do not like to be called reductionists and dispute the narrative history of 20th century art that discusses this kind of painting as an end result of less is more, a reduction of painting to its simplest elements.

Ryman did not come from the head of Athena neither did Judd or Martin. There early work is almost impossible to find, but you can find a very conventional mid century abstraction by Martin in the Seattle Art Museum painted in the early 50s (she has burned others of that time period) and you can occasionally find gestural splashes littering Judd’s CV before he found boxes. Now, as well, you can see Ryman. There is colour for one–peach and parrot green, plus shapes, not the squares and rectangles of bound, flat picture planes–but swerves, swipes and things like that. They are works on paper mostly, student sketches before he found the style that would sustain them, and really only interesting in a historically way.

But the history of an artist ruing early work (see also:Jeff Koons recent hatred of his Made in Heaven Series and Thomas Hart Benton ripping off Kandinsky before moving back to Kansas) is an American history, and its one that keeps being told, and has been told–to add Ryman to the list is to suggest even the most radical people started somewhere conventional.)

(Two notes on Ryman : On hot summer days I often go to DQ and order a marshmallow sunday, we call it a Ryman–because it is white on white, but also the grainy soft serve contrasting with the slick marshmallow syrup is the kind of texture i imagine him to enjoy at least technically–plus its a nice fuck you to name something so pop after someone so technical.

Also, when i was reading Art Forum with an ad for this show, i yelped to my room mate, Ryman uses Colour. My room mate mocked me.)

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