Ryan McNamara, ‘Still’
March 9, 2012, The New York Times
The solo gallery debut of the resourceful performance artist Ryan McNamara is about as fluid, made-up-as-you-go-along and, yes, performative as can be while yet still yielding art objects.
For the moment, and through March 17, the gallery is functioning as a busy, messy photography studio, filled with assorted photographic backdrops, props, odd objects and materials, a rack of costumes, and cameras whose use is overseen by the artist and his assistants.
People are undressing and dressing up, posing alone, in pairs, in groups and even families. Photographs are taken and posted on the gallery’s website, and videos of the proceedings are promised too. Idle spectatorship is not allowed. Step into the gallery, and every effort will be made to press you into the action. (Art critics include; this one barely evaded participation.)
The images are spirited and wonderfully improvisatory. They bring to mind Lucas Samara’s mostly nude ‘Sitting’ portraits of the early 1970’s, and also the uncanny surrealist reprises that Jimmy De Sana concocted in the early 1980’s. But they are more varied, each being a collaboration or collision of Mr McNamara’s sensibility with those of the participants who clearly have ideas of their own. Fantasies are enacted, temporary installation pieces concocted and inhabited, small children shine. Antic hay is made quickly. Whether or not it’s true, there is a sense of people just outside the frame , waiting their turn.
Meanwhile a second artistic process is encroaching on the photography sessions. Especially when things get slow, Mr McNamara has been culling the photographs for faces and figures that he reduces in size, tints with colour and affixes to whatever- wood cutouts, as well as the props and backdrops already in use- like tattoos or decals, in a process called decoupage. These works will probably soon be showing up in the photographs themselves, and after the 17th they will take over the gallery completely.
On the evidence of the poster for the show and a sculpture that Mr McNamara is showing at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery booth at the Independent art fair two blocks away- a kind of skinlike onesie, but rigid- this could be interesting. Whether those works can match the collaborative ebullience of the image-gathering process remains to be seen, but a kind of teeming, incessant, human-based energy seems guaranteed.
Source:The New York Times
And Introducing Ryan McNamara
November 28, 2011, by Amanda Valdez, Dossier Journal
Artist Ryan McNamara has recently joined Elizabeth Dee gallery. When asked to put together a show introducing himself- he did literally just that. For the next three days you can go and spend time with Ryan while he takes you on a visual and narrative tour through his life and maturation as an artist. I spent an hour with Ryan while he told me his life story through childhood snapshots and then through his art projects starting with early black and white photo 101 style prints to his current performances like the recent Whitney Houston Biennial at The Whitney Biennial. The show is self-indulgently about him, however including all the awkward remnants and visual history of his personal and artistic development that aren’t so Chelsea glamorous and activating them by narration and dialog with his visitors he contributes to the demystification of the artist.
The Nifty 50, Ryan McNamara, Artist
Jan 21 2010, by David Colman, T Magazine
The art world likes to think it’s cornered the market on subverting reality, from the grotesque caricatures of Cindy Sherman’s photographs to the man-beast menagerie in Matthew Barney’s videos. But for Ryan McNamara, the up-and-coming video and performance artist who charmed the art world four times over in 2009, some of today’s most disturbing and mind-bending visions are right there on television.
Take what he considers the mysterious “Mona Lisa” of today’s pop culture: Miley Cyrus.
But wait — the person or the character?
“Exactly,” said McNamara, ticking off the weirdness. “She’s a real person, but who plays herself, Miley Cyrus, on a TV show, but also, on her show, she has a secret identity as a rock star called Hannah Montana, which is just her in a blond wig. And all her friends are all into Hannah Montana, but they don’t know she’s their best friend. Only her dad, played by Miley Cyrus’s real dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, knows — oh, and her dead mother, played by Brooke Shields.”
Don’t even get him started on the Teletubbies. Born in 1980, McNamara grew up on a steady diet of MTV videos, which he now thinks of as short indie films, given the abstract narratives many of them contained. The form was a big influence; now, McNamara is breathing new life into the often abstruse genres of video art and performance by bringing his own Top 40 sensibility into the mix.
Read the entire article
The Last Magazine
The New York art world has been doubly besieged by performance artists and by talented young people named Ryan. Ryan McNamara is both of these things, and over the past few years his many performances—a variety show featuring no variety at all; a romantic play where his character falls believably in love with a charismatic stepladder—have been a reliable and rare mix of personal and social analysis and pure viewing pleasure. McNamara seems to be a born performer, and in his piece for PS1’s Greater New York, “Make Ryan a Dancer,” he took on the new challenge of becoming, in six months time, a dancer. The results of this effort will be on view in a performance on Sunday. Here, McNamara talks about the project.
AW: When did you become interested in performance, and specifically, dance?
RM: When I was a teenager, I started taking photo classes at community college (my all-boys Catholic high school didn’t offer art classes). No one else was around, so I started taking photographs of myself in increasingly bizarre poses. When I got a video camera, I realized that my body’s transitions between these poses were more interesting than the still images. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I was working in dance. Now that I’m investigating dance in a more purposeful way, I’ve become infatuated with some of dance history’s heavy hitters, like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. I also think a lot about the work of living choreographers Sarah Michelson and Tere O’Connor as well.
AW: One of my oldest friends danced with Merce Cunningham for many years, and it has been interesting to be an observer of that world and to watch the lives of young dancers transform. You said that you’re looking at this project in terms of disabilities. Does that relate to the transient aspect of both performance and of the life of a young body?
RM: It’s amazing the toll life takes on the body. We abuse our bodies, and for the most part, our bodies take it. Dance is one of the more interesting forms of bodily abuse. There has been a shift in my outlook on “Make Ryan a Dancer” that is profound to me, in the way that understanding something very obvious can be. I went into this project viewing my body as this malleable substance that just needed to be exposed to instruction in order to metamorphose me into something else. I now see my body as a series of limitations that I must evade in order to get what I want. I had this moment after class one day when I realized that we are all disabled, more or less so depending on the movement hierarchies we are operating within. No matter how hard I try, I will never have my ballet teacher David Hallberg’s beautiful feet, or my stripping teacher Kira Blazek’s amazing ass.
Ryan McNamara Performs Vaudeville Tonight
8th May, 2009, by Aimee Walleston, Art In America
New York artist Ryan McNamara creates performances and videos imbued with humorous, macabre pop culture references, trenchant inquiries into identity, and a healthy dose of American spotlight-seeking. McNamara's performance tonight, "The Star Parade," puts the artist in the role of variety show host. He will present an array of acts, most still undisclosed, though there's little doubt that the show as a whole will be heavily endowed with the artist's canny, double-twisted wit. Here, we speak to McNamara about tonight's performance:
WALLESTON: What can we expect from this evening's performance?
MCNAMARA: "The Star Parade" is a durational performance about variety involving blue velvet, a spotlight, and gay men ranging in age from 24 to 74. When I say it's durational, I mean it's not narrative per se-which also means people should feel free to arrive and leave at their leisure, anytime between 7pm and 9pm. There's a meta-narrative, maybe, but the beginning and ending are confounded. The characters are ciphers.
WALLESTON You also have a video, "The Latest in Blood and Guts," up right now in Salon 94 Freemans' group show, "Stars!" Can you describe the piece?
MCNAMARA: It's a short, black-and-white video, featuring me in a suit on a stage with a curtain backdrop. Depending on how you look at it, I'm either dancing or pulling my intestines out.
In one sense, it's a memorial for the late newscaster Christine Chubbuck; it's also a rehearsal of my childhood dream to be a variety show host. It's called "The Latest in Blood and Guts," which is a line taken from Chubbuck's last words. Here's something I wrote about that incident: