Kölnischer Kunstverein

Ryan McLaughlin

Lacus PM

06 Feb - 22 Mar 2015

Ryan McLaughlin, exhibition view, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 2015, photo: Simon Vogel
With Lacus PM the Kölnischer Kunstverein presents the first institutional solo exhibition of the US-American painter Ryan McLaughlin. The artist, who was born in 1980 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and now lives in Sunapee, New Hampshire, has produced an outstanding body of work in recent years, which will be presented in Cologne on the basis of eight works from 2012 to 2015. The works, most of which were produced with oil paint on MDF and canvas, have something unpretentious about them, which is not only due to the use of the reduced, unobtrusive color palette. The small size of the works, which ranges between the format of a cigar box and that of a theatre or cinema poster, also contributes to this impression. While a few years ago McLaughlin’s works often featured still lifes or depictions of more or less familiar-looking figures and everyday objects in a comic-like manner – as for example in Chicken Rabbit (2012), the earliest painting in the exhibition – the motifs of most of the works assembled in Cologne can be categorized less clearly. Much of the work is shadowy, seems as if hinted at, and can only be categorized more clearly in the course of a catchy observation. Occasionally, the German-language titles offer an orientation to gain access to the paintings or their contents. The title Weather (2014), for example, complements the sketchy representation of a map of Germany with corresponding symbols for sun or rain as familiar from daily newspapers. In contrast, the painting Wasserbetriebe (2014) can be understood as a reference to the Berlin waterworks, as in the work a part of the official lettering of the utility company is adapted, which among other things meets the depiction of a dripping tap as well as a historical steamship. The confrontation with symbols and lettering of our everyday and commodity world – as is also shown by the use of the logo of the Seitenbacher company, which specializes in natural foods, in the work entitled Dinkel (2014) – seems to form an essential starting point for the American’s current works, which initially connects him formally with the tradition of Pop Art. But where the American art movement focused on the constant repetition and reproduction of mostly well-known sign systems and icons, McLaughlin rather focuses on peripheral symbols and lettering in order to transfer them into the realm of abstraction through their schematic representation. The preoccupation with abstract painting thus represents a further important aspect that characterizes the works of Ryan McLaughlin. The way in which the artist consciously distances himself from clear forms, arranges surfaces, allows different layers of paint application and the flow of the brush to become apparent, or marks the boundaries of the paintings with irregular strokes and lines, can be seen not only as a further important factor in the special appeal of the works, but also as an allusion to history and the various forms of European and American abstraction. Moreover, these specific characteristics of the works also reveal an interest in the question of what constitutes a painting and how it can be read or deciphered. These conceptual trains of thought form the background of the works assembled in Cologne, against which Ryan McLaughlin formulates convincing paintings that have an inherent quiet, unobtrusive power.

Tags: Ryan Mclaughlin