Popular culture, burned as it is onto the backs our retinae, doesn’t need an introduction. For instance, a single red hump from the McDonald’s arch sends some salivating like Pavlov’s dog, and Justin Bieber’s hair effectively stands in for the boy, the myth, the legend. Therefore, abstracting pop, as David Ryan does in Glitches & Fixes, is a natural, if very elegant, progression.
Ryan, who perhaps tellingly lives and works in entertainment capital Las Vegas, Nev., knows the inexorable draw of pop culture as fed to us through advertisements. He also knows that the draw remains even when those familiar signifiers have been chopped and screwed.
Brightly colored acrylic-on-Corafoam assemblages make up his Glitches & Fixes. Ryan expertly cuts, fits together and layers like-and-unlike colors of lightweight, high-density fiberboardish material to create swirly, 3-D works that have a painterly feel—although each swipe of color is surely much more laborious. The interstices come off like careful pencil etches from a distance and feats of architecture up close.
The final product looks as if a pie chart, a Venn diagram and a 3-D bar graph got into a bar fight, resulting in a slurry of information that’s difficult to access, but whose upshot carries more comprehensive insight than the sum of its charts.
Some of the pieces—“PIBCAC,” or “problem is between computer and chair,” ie the user; and “TNETENNBA,” a made-up tech word that has come to mean a made-up tech word—look like they could be brand logos. They carry assurance like the emblem of your favorite chain restaurant on a long road trip; the logo says you’re safe or, at least, you know what you’re getting. And with his pieces’ sharp lines, bright colors and impervious attitudes, it’s easy to buy what Ryan is selling—were his art hawking something besides itself. As such, the exhibition is at once appealing and nauseating. (Think of Apple’s insidious marketing campaign: I might buy a Mac, but I’m certainly not one.)
The titles give the works names rather than meaning—which is fortunate because “Left on Pan Am Fwy” would have one driving in neon circles, while the sporadic chromatics in “Chumbley, Fass!” would never direct anyone to Ryan’s late dog.
The latter piece, a soiree of interspersed, multicolored orbitals, measures approximately 6 by 11 feet and extends 5.5 inches from the wall in layered Corafoam. It is an example of Ryan’s work at its best: when it’s biggest and brightest. After all, 3-D pop abstraction is not the business of the meek.
Indeed, as at home as these works would be emblazoned on billboards or plastered across city streets, they look uncomfortable floating on the austerity of the gallery’s tall white walls. It’s heresy, but perhaps a gallery as accommodating as James Kelly Contemporary—think of the ad hoc wall constructed last year so that a 500-pound graphite cuboid by Susan York could bisect it—would set the works off against a more urban, less urbane backdrop. Colorful walls? Shiny scrim? A thousand-bulb Vegas marquee?
If Glitches & Fixes were a commercial, the TV would be on and its pixels blaring loud. Someone just needs to turn up the volume.