Kathleen Ryan


February 18 – March 25, 2023
Hyperallergic, Designboom

Installation view, Kathleen Ryan, Beachcomber, 2023. François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA

Press Release

François Ghebaly is proud to present Beachcomber by Kathleen Ryan in the Downtown Los Angeles gallery.

Kathleen Ryan re-envisions the detritus of American life. Spoiled fruits become monuments in glistening stone; industrial parts and domestic ephemera are transformed into plants and animals. Reclaimed automobilia, mottled gemstone façades, and armatures of debris interlink and sprawl. Ryan marries disparate objects in novel formations, equally attuned to the material culture of her sources and to the classical considerations of sculpture. Gravity, formal dynamism, and negative space are as much a part of her vocabulary as marble, crystal, and the hoods of aging muscle cars. 

In her new exhibition Beachcomber, Ryan turns to the seaside in an arrangement of larger-than-life mollusks and cocktail skewers strewn about the gallery. Works like Deluxe and Screwdriver are modeled as mammoth fruit garnishes, complete with giant toothpicks, gem-set maraschino cherries, and citrus rinds formed from the tailgates of salvaged vehicles. A sun-bleached patio umbrella stands in for a kitschy paper cocktail parasol, a metonym that evokes multiple images of mid century American life: a suburban backyard cookout, perhaps, or the tiki craze and its undercurrent of American imperialism. Formally, Ryan sets a contrast of the closely studied, densely detailed rendering of citric mold and desiccation against solid planes of vivid automotive paint. Beyond their immediate juxtaposition of decadence and decay, these works demonstrate the bedrock sensibilities underlying Ryan’s practice, particularly the redemptive elevation of the literal and figurative junk of American society.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, Ryan repositions salvaged car hoods and trunks, arranging them in joined pairs like the cleft halves of oysters or clams. She configures hinges like lockets, affixing the shells in gestures of partial openness that highlight the interplay between exterior and interior, exposure and concealment, crude mechanism and soft, organic life. In spite of the heft of the vintage car components, these works are remarkable for their integration of space and airiness into the solid hardware of their parts. With Soft Palate, Ryan casts a weathered blue car hood as the shell of an oyster, its rusty exterior giving way to a shock of inner crimson. As an oyster crafts a pearl from the stuff of its shell, Soft Palate cups a perfect sphere of red painted steel. In other works, the pearl is displaced by a fine dewy spider web, a matrix of clear quartz crystal beads, each reflecting an inversion of its surroundings. Throughout the exhibition, Ryan draws upon the detritus of a consumer society obsessed with the open road and where the lines between class and kitsch often blur. Ryan's monuments to the overlooked are like the oysters they emulate: through silt and sediment, the pearl.

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Kathleen Ryan, Screwdriver, 2023. Onyx, citrine, rhodonite, garnet, agate, tektite, lava rock, turquoise, aquamarine, serpentine, magnesite, amazonite, black tourmaline, jasper, prehnite, ruby in zoisite, marble, amber, labradorite, smoky quartz, quartz, acrylic, steel pins on coated polystyrene, aluminum umbrella, 68’ AMC Javelin trunk, 77 x 88 x 107 in. (195.6 x 223.5 x 271.8 cm.)

Kathleen Ryan, Soft Palate, 2023. Car hoods, steel, stainless steel, automotive paint, 48.5 x 46 x 49 in. (123.2 x 116.8 x 124.5 cm.)

Kathleen Ryan, Generator VIII, 2023. Quartz crystal, silver-plated stainless steel cable, silver crimps, steel, automotive paint, Dodge trunks, 38 x 32 x 41.5 in. (96.5 x 81.3 x 105.4 cm.)

Kathleen Ryan, Deluxe, 2023. Agate, jasper, serpentine, garnet, lapis lazuli, smoky quartz, quartz, labradorite, tektite, aventurine, snowflake obsidian, onyx, tiger eye, turquoise, marble, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, wood, Datsun 1200 trunk, 53 x 45 x 73.5 in. (134.6 x 114.3 x 186.7 cm.)

Kathleen Ryan, Generator VII, 2023. Quartz crystal, silver-plated stainless steel cable, silver crimps, steel, Volkswagen trunks, 38 x 33 x 32 in. (96.5 x 83.8 x 81.3 cm.)