A unique exhibition marking 60 years of continuous exploration of achromatic colors by Robert Ryman, one of America’s leading pioneers of Minimalist painting, is currently on view at the DIA Art Foundation in Chelsea, New York City.
In the show we get to see a careful selection of Ryman’s works, from the 1950s through 2000s, and his constant and passionate explorations on singular colors, mainly the color white.
To Ryman, now 85, the color white “could do things other color could not. “ “White has a tendency to make things visible; with white you can see more”.
The simplicity of the surfaces might be misleading; if you observe the edges, you would find several layers of paint beneath the surface, since the surface paint never seems to reach the edges.
According to him, his paintings do not try to tell a story, nor do they have any kind of symbolism. However, as viewers, we do not find them light or fickle; they all seem to carry a solid body of substance offering powerful moments of purity, neutrality, and possibility.
Perhaps Ryman is one of the most prolific artists in contemporary art, in terms of radicalizing the tonal values of a certain color, and innovative use and experimentation of surface materials, ranging from the traditional canvas, linen and paper to fiberglass, Plexiglas, aluminum, and even porcelain on copper panel.
However macro and complex his approaches appear to be, the paintings are never limited to just a sensation of space. The beauty of their essence seems to have extended; it is as if through the absence of color he has managed to embrace the presence of something non-definable but can be sensed intuitively.
What has intrigues us about Ryman is that his paintings, however simple and easy they look, are never decorative, as so many Minimalist paintings have become. They exist as they are, and reveal themselves without preamble or introduction or a lesson of art history.
This is one of those exhibitions that one should not miss. The last time Ryman showed his work in New York was more than 20 years ago.
The exhibition will end on June 18th.
* Image on slider: Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1973, baked enamel on copper, 5 panels.