You may know Ryan McGinness from his ‘skater-punk’ past; the Virginia Beach-bred artist who has designed boards for Supreme and apparel sold at Barney’s. In the late 1990’s he covered downtown New York with what critics referred to as ‘zen-snide’ sticker art playing with taglines such as, “A lot of Art is Boring,” and “I love my Attention Deficit Disorder.”
Now known for his sought after meditative paintings, installations, and screen prints. McGinness’ latest series, Women, is a highly simplistic yet evocative collection. McGinness studied graphic design at Carnegie Mellon and worked as a curatorial assistant at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. Warhol’s pop influence carries through into his work on vivid, fluorescent silkscreen canvases. McGinness has a preoccupation with what he describes as “maintain[ing] a cohesive whole while trying to make a symbol. If I can understand the subject as a symbol, then I can carry that understanding with me and share it.”
McGinness explains the motivation behind the new work; “two parallel desires [that] drive these new Women drawings: my desire to simplify and iconify the underlying visual geometries inherent in my figure drawings in order to better understand my subject matter; and my desire to embrace and capture the purely aesthetic experience of graceful curves and sensual forms inherent in my models.” He is careful to note that though his models are sexy, “the drawings are sexier... I am more attracted to these drawings than I am to the women who make them possible.”
In his interview with three of his models he delves into the nature of posing nude, the male gaze, and the unavoidable cliché at the root of his subject matter: “I’m a white heterosexual male artist who loves women, and that’s nothing new.” The artist is also quick to address the issue of female objectification, “literally objectifying [her] form by manipulating it on paper and then materializing it the way I want.” Women transform his subjects into symbols, as depicted through the progression from sketches to his prints.
On the topic of McGinness’ artistic style, Jeffrey Deitch explains, “ [he is] not a painter or a hybrid artist-designer, but a creator of an integrated artistic vision.” The female subjects in his work are often embodying dual realities, imbued with his reverence for the image itself, the world in his head that he has invited the viewer into. As he wrote, “Like most artists, I’m searching for the truth... I think women are beautiful, and in using figure drawing as my point of departure for developing beautiful forms, I find myself getting closer to an aesthetic experience that I can believe in, the truth.”