Claudia Groeflin

Ryan McLaughlin

28 Aug - 27 Sep 2008

Exhibition view

28 Aug – 27 Sept 2008

Groeflin Maag Galerie is proud to present its second solo exhibition with
Berlin-based, American artist, Ryan McLaughlin. In the exhibition entitled,
“Robinson”, McLaughlin is presenting a new series of paintings and for the
first time, sculptures.

Drawing his inspiration largely from historical and imagined sports heroes
of the American baseball leagues, this exhibition weaves a vague narrative
through a stylised coupling of fact and fiction.

With a palpable dose of self irony and humour, these paintings and sculptures
become almost generic ruminations on sports (in this case: baseball) vis-à-vis
the visual language surrounding and incorporated by it in the world arena as a
diffuse metaphor for the artist’s own personal history and current position as
a young, male, expatriate painter. All of this wed with an uncompromising
appreciation for the history and practice of painting itself creates an intriguing
tension in these works. This dialogue is echoed in the wall sculptures –
composed of baseball bats protruding from the wall and draped with
abstractions of team jerseys made of linen – a gestural nod to both the
iconography of sportswear and fundamentals of painting.

Imagined subjects like team jerseys and mascots, scrimshaws, eels, or
non-specific still-lifes all leave the viewer little chance in deciphering any
meaningful story from these seemingly incongruous fragments. These motifs,
however, have all been subjected to a reductive anthropomorphism that seems
to suggest or even encourage a more anecdotal reading. Needless to say –
should you not share McLaughlin’s interest in sports – you need not be put off
by the subjects of his paintings or sculptures. There is an important twist in
the use of this visual rhetoric: here we don’t see gilded, steroid-pumped
monuments to heroes of the great American pastime. Instead we are confronted
with an array of what seem more like deflated ornaments – flaccid banners to
the futility of it all.

As if they were frozen in time or just stopping briefly to pose for a photograph,
McLaughlin’s subjects hang expectantly in the foreground against an equally
robust background. Beautifully and painstakingly constructed – his subjects
remain powerless. Absurdist, formally strong and visually engaging, the
compositions teeter in the balance between odd-ball trophy-heads and studies
of generic signage – landing somewhere in the midst of shrines to Americana
memorabilia and poignant meditations on the practice of painting.

Scott C. Weaver

Tags: Ryan Mclaughlin