Robert Ryman (b. 1930, Nashville, TN) attended the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute and the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. After enlisting in the United States Army (1950–52), he moved to New York to play jazz. In 1953 he took a temporary job—where he would ultimately work for seven years—as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art. Soon after, he would decide to devote his career towards painting. For more than five decades, Robert Ryman has been engaged in an ongoing experiment with painting. He constantly seeks to modify his approach, resisting the comfort of tendency and maintaining the freshness of an unchartered territory. From each experience Ryman gleans the variables for a revised proposition and the impetus to propel him towards his next move. Since Ryman’s first solo exhibition in 1967, his work has been the subject of over 100 solo exhibitions in 12 countries.
New York—Pace Gallery is pleased to present the first comprehensive exhibition of drawings by Robert Ryman. Bringing together over 50 drawings from private collections as well as museums, including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Dia Art Foundation, and The Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition spans the broad scope Ryman’s career—from his earliest experimentations with drawing in the 1960s to the last drawing he made in 2000. Robert Ryman: Drawings will be on view from February 23 through March 24, 2018 at 510 West 25th Street. Dieter Schwarz, Director of Museum Winterthur from 1990 – 2017, has contributed a new essay on Ryman’s drawings for the full-color catalogue accompanying the exhibition.
While one of the most important artists of the postwar period and a pioneering figure within the field of abstract painting, Ryman’s drawings, and their profound significance within his practice, have never been examined before in a focused exhibition. Over half of the works in Robert Ryman: Drawings will make their public premiere in this exhibition, and many others have not been on view publicly in decades, such as The Watermark Series (1968)—last presented in the artist’s mid-career retrospective at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1972.
The long-awaited exhibition underscores the wildly experimental approach that Ryman brought to drawing. For Ryman, drawings were not preparatory or dependent on the medium or support; but rather, encompassed an incredibly diverse range of materials and structures. The works in the exhibition see the artist testing out pastels, graphite, charcoal, conté, pencil, ballpoint pen, and enamel on surfaces ranging from Chemex coffee filter paper and plexiglass to anodized aluminum and matte Mylar panel. Working across these different media, Ryman continually interrogates the idea of what constitutes a drawing, while remaining grounded in a consistent investigation of the line, its formal properties and visual effects.
“As with any painting, you do have a surface to put the line on—what is that? How’s the light going to work on it? and so on, so forth. So the approach is very similar to painting, but the focus is on the line.” — Robert Ryman, in Robert Storr, Robert Ryman. London: Tate Gallery and New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1993.
Robert Ryman (b. 1930, Nashville, Tennessee) has eluded traditional classifications throughout his career, instead referring to his practice as “realist” and in doing so, proposing new perspectives on painting and drawing. His work eschews representation, narrative, illusion, and conventional understandings of realism, instead exploring the material and compositional qualities offered by his media. Spanning drawing, painting, and printmaking, Ryman’s practice engages with aesthetic experience, wherein acts of presenting, perceiving, and contemplating are a part of his work as much as his artistic process.
Ryman has been the subject of over one hundred monographic exhibitions, including retrospectives organized by Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1977); The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Gallery, London (1993), which traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Haus der Kunst, Munich (2000), which traveled to the Kunstmuseum Bonn (2001); Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan (2004); and the Dallas Museum of Art (2005). A recent exhibition of Ryman’s work was held at Dia:Chelsea, New York (2015), which then traveled to Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2017).
Ryman’s work is held in collections throughout the United States and abroad, including Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Menil Collection, Houston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Robert Ryman has been represented by Pace since 1990. The gallery has presented twelve exhibitions dedicated to his work.
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