Marlborough Chelsea is abloom with a powerful Will Ryman exhibition running through October 10, 2009. Handmade of steel, epoxy resin, aluminum, plaster, and paint by Ryman, these super-sized clusters of flowers entrance in pink, rose, and red. Featuring 39 sculptures altogether, “A New Beginning” breathes life into over one hundred large roses with their complement of the urban garden’s flotsam—bottle caps, crushed cans, cigarette butts, snack wrappers, etc.
While following the tradition—both Western and Eastern—of flower depiction as found in still life and portraiture, the flowers in Ryman’s work aren’t embodying beauty, purity, and fertility. Neither are these flowers exploring themes of love, fidelity, and friendship. Resting on the fact that beauty and life are fleeting and transient in nature, depictions of the flower have been powerful forces in Western art. In Ryman’s monumental, mixed media “garden” we find illuminated the underbelly of our society and its decay and contamination. Amid the surreal beauty of these “flowers,” the viewer is at once confronted with a squashed Coca Cola can, Budweiser cap, cigarette leavings, Wise potato chip bag, and lost golf ball.
Yes, Ryman exposes the raw elements of his work: We see the steel thorns and deteriorating flowers in those last stages before petal loss. In Ryman’s garden, every element is visible: This includes such pests as aphids and black flies. Humanity is indeed hazardous to nature. At the same time “A New Beginning” is not totally about our environment’s succumbing to humankind’s footprint. The artist also presents us with humor and Pop art’s whimsical confidence. John Yau described the show’s dichotomy in the catalogue for this exhibition: “And yet, “A New Beginning” isn’t meant as some easily digestible social commentary… There is a quiet but fierce grimness to this work, and touch of humor, a sense that, despite starting anew, celebrations are not necessarily in order.”
A writer of fiction and drama frustrated by the limits of writing and the theater, Ryman began to create figures to express themes from his plays. Ryman has devoted himself exclusively to sculpture since 2002.
A New Beginning
By Will Ryman
Through October 10, 2009
@ Marlborough Chelsea
545 West 25th Street, NYC 10001