Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Fluidity of Ryan McGinness' Semiotics

Ryan McGinness’ prowess in printmaking circles is becoming quite a known entity. His eye-catching, crisp and clean logo-like motifs are complex in their subject and when overlapped or placed next to other motifs, they sometimes create other shapes. The artists’ homage to semiotics and mass-commercialism is apparent, and his works are widely seen in galleries, online sources, and online merchandising. I will, however, speak to his work in this article.

 McGinness is more known as a young, up-coming painter who has received enormous attention for his intricately, over-lapping designs. They can, at times, resemble the complexity of viewing Islamic designs within a majid, or a host ot graffiti-like tattoos, but his subject matter is more far-reaching, incorporating known designs and creating his own logos for religious symbols, the human form and animals, etc. To McGinness, the more exotic his references are, the better.   The end result of these complex combinations is often successful when applied to his paintings, but his prints aren’t as heavily drenched in color nor in subject. Nor do they need be.
He often lets the white of the printed paper show through and around hsi subjects and it creates a shape of its own. Some of his prints don’t appear ‘finished’ - like some of Paul Cezanne’s watercolors left an openness of the paper for the viewer to fill in the gaps. I can’t say I think McGinness is attempting the same dialogue. To be honest, it would appear that his message isn’t even about the subject-ness of his designs and logos. He appropriates form for building other types of shapes, but as for some inner meaning or referential point, McGinness doesn’t mention anything in particular, and their vagueness leaves one detached.  His deliberate avoidance for some compositional device(more seen in his prints) may also be a form of anti art-statement. In some cases, I am reminded of the work of Carrie Plank, whom I wrote about earlier this year. Her sensibility for combining recognizable form was so disparate, that one couldn’t connect the dots of meaning in her work. Here, I am close to making the same assessment with McGinness’ work, although he does control the design of his logos and their uniformity is in his use of their flat, bright colors.
Where McGinness’ paintings are saturated with line and form and visual “POW!” , his prints are just as complex in their single use of color. I, too, understand wanting to try ‘something else’ in other media, so one can see the artist’s thought-process at work.  I do like the artist’s energy and the fact he is seems to be ever-exploring his imagery.

McGinness’ expansion from geometric form to fluid curvilinear motifs moves us through some earlier 20th c. art movements like Op Art and the Semiotics of the 1980s, Multi-culturalism and tattoo-graffiti of the 1990s to now. The multi-ethnic source material will be interesting to see evolve, as it has been with earlier artists’ work, but the ambitious nature of his overall projects and producing them in other cultures speaks to the works of his predecessors Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  We will hope his longevity transcends theirs, as this own path moves forward.

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