The possibility of a realistic painting where there is no myth nor illusion, but which is taken as its content and background, is the practical idea of Robert Ryman (Nashville, Tennessee, 1930). Self-taught, his first and crucial contact with twentieth-century art is produced over the years he worked as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1953-1960). From all that he sees there, it is Rothko who gives him the ultimate lesson regarding the consideration of painting as an integrated entity. "What is radical about Rothko - the artist says in 1986 - is that there is no allusion to any representational influence. There is colour, there is shape, there is structure, surface, light - nudity with nothing else." Ryman bursts onto the American art scene in the second half of the fifties with a piece based on the colour white. His pictorial direction is immediately defined as a strict realism, he distances himself from Minimal artists’ analytical radicalism, rejecting any symbolic or metaphorical content in his paintings and focusing on material issues relating to painting and the pictorial surface. This line of research has continued into his most recent work, as exemplified by the series Versions (1991-1992), which employs an interference colour which is opalescent and varies according to the light.
Ryman recognises 1965 as the year that he reaches maturity as a painter. From that time his work is divided into series: Winsor (1967), Standards (1967), Classico 5 (1968), General (1970), these works manifest the artist's experimental will and not only with the nature of pigment (and his disposition to compose stripes), but his research also extends to the media and supports he uses (steel plates, masking tape, enamel, acrylic, chalk, enamelac, copper, plexiglass, fibreglass and acrylivin) and the notion of clustering and sketches, visible in Lugano (1968).
The Surface Veil (1970) series marks the beginning of the critical review of the picture plane and wall relationship, when including adhesive tape as a fastening element. The next step in this regard is the inclusion of bolts in the corners, emphasising on the visibility of the fastening system as an intrinsic part of the work: Embassy I (1976), Phoenix (1979), Access (1983) or Range (1983). Maximum dimensions of the painting as the object are Pace (1984), where he places a wooden ironing board perpendicular to the wall (a contrast between the edge and the painted lower and upper surfaces) and Expander (1985), whose bolts move into the painting.
Tate Gallery, London (February 17 - April 25, 1993); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (September 22, 1993 - January 4, 1994); Museum of Modern Art SFMoMA, San Francisco (February 3 - April 17, 1994); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (July 23 - October 2, 1994)
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