Ryan ESTEP - 2
Exhibition on view until November 29, 2014 from Tuesday to Saturday, 2 to 7 PM
Ryan ESTEP (born in 1980 in Midlands (USA), lives and works in New York) offers a body of works delving into questions of touch, labor, materiality and process. Beginning with monochrome canvases, in the tradition of post-minimalism, ESTEP introduces protocols and artistic gestures to these paintings that do not immediately divulge the complexity of their creation. Experimenting with unusual materials, ESTEP acts upon his paintings as an engagement in a tactile experience, often giving new credence to the idea of the 'hand of the artist'. Working in series, each following a set of rules, which determine his gestures used but never their results, ESTEP could be described as a creator of so many intentional accidents.
In the spirit of this process-oriented approach, ESTEP's Sterilized Dirt series follows a number of premeditated steps. Dirt is mixed with organic disinfectant and then heated to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, killing all organic material and preventing further penetration of bacteria. What does one call 'dirt' when it has been sterilized and thus is no longer 'dirty'? This now aseptic material is then silkscreened onto canvas and re-stretched while wet, inscribing the artist's presence on the surface of the canvas.
ESTEP's Anti-bacterial Soap Installation, a set of spheres, was made by heating, mixing, and molding the soap used by the artist to clean himself, his studio and tools, during the production of the works for the exhibition. They clot and scatter throughout the show, uncomfortably gathering small lines of dirt as they move across the space.
The Lemon Self Portrait series depicts the intimate relationship of the artist with a lemon tree he is growing in his studio. Because of the lack of bees indoors, ESTEP has tasked himself with the pollination of his lemon tree: using a painter's brush, he compensates this organic process. At the same time, he set aside a small amount of pollen, and infused it with a white encaustic medium. Using a blind contour approach, this mixture of pollen and encaustic was used to sketch the lemon tree itself, which at the same time bore no fruit. Leaving an almost invisible trace on a cardboard shadowbox collar, ESTEP has produced these delicately subtle drawings.
The Functional Paintings are a new body of works subtly altering the gallery's space. To work the plywood into its concave shape, ESTEP has used the Thonet method, steaming the wood in order to manipulate it into the desired form. This concave wood is then covered in canvas, and painted with a color matching the raw canvas itself, applied in two coats. The 'functionality' of these paintings is in fact to serve as an element creating distance between the soap installation and the wall. Rather than being a purely aesthetic element, these paintings modify the very architecture of the space as well as the spectator's view of and relation to it.