What we like best about artist Will Ryman is the fact that all of his projects look completely different to each other. Whether it is sculptures of Giant Roses, a big Bird made of nails, or a Golden scale replica of the Log Cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born, it is always fun to see what he is going to do next.
Right now, Paul Kasmin Gallery’s West 27th Street space is hosting Two Rooms, a solo exhibition featuring two of Ryman’s new sculptural installations. The Situation Room (2012–2014) is a life-size installation based on the iconic photograph that captured members of the Obama administration and U.S. military leaders watching in real time the Navy SEAL raid on Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Among those gathered in the White House Situation Room were President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Developed over the course of three years, the sculpture is composed of crushed black coal as a reference to industrial development and as a means to redact the specificity of the photograph, reducing the tableau to its elemental components. The Situation Room is a contemplation on war, power, propaganda, industrialization, and political theater. In its reductive monumentality, Ryman’s appropriation of the photograph becomes an anonymous fossilization of the timelessness of war.
Classroom presents 12 figures from the same cast, each made of a different natural resource or composite essential to various cultures and economies including cadmium, titanium, salt, iron, oil, chrome, copper, wood, and gold.
Arranged in four rows of three, the figures evoke traditional classroom settings, interchangeable workers in a factory’s assembly line, or soldiers in military formation.
Their youthful appearance references the practice of child labor so widespread in many countries. Corporations in developed countries often refer to their employees as their greatest “natural resource,” and in one interpretation of the installation, Ryman extends the metaphor to an inexorable conclusion: workers are a material to be mined and exploited in the service of industry. They are, to the extent possible, mechanized.
Will Ryman’s Two Rooms will be on Exhibit Through Oct 17th, 2015 at Paul Kasmin Gallery, Located at 515 West 27th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.