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Art: Ryan McGinness: Aesthetic Comfort at the Cincinnati Art Museum

By Laura James · November 11th, 2008 · CityBeat Recommends

Ryan McGinness’ exhibition of new paintings, Aesthetic Comfort, creates an optical second reality in the Vance-Waddell Gallery at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Lights are turned off; heavy, dark curtains hang in the doorway; black lights shine onto the wood panels and bring everything painted there to life. It’s a little disconcerting, looking into a painting and feeling as though you might trip into some Alice in Wonderland alternative universe. But these paintings are also inviting — they pull you into their layered development, tempting you to touch, to test, to feel what you’re seeing.

In this sense, McGinness has created something entirely original here — a revamping of the Renaissance.

The paintings must be thick with paint, not that you can see it in the dark. On the contrary, the paintings look downright delicate. Graceful swirls morph into graphic symbols that morph into delirious colors. Some lines and images pop forward, others retreat. McGinness uses florescent paint to create a three-dimensional effect. The illusion is so believable that it’s hard to imagine anyone not itching to touch the panels.

McGinness uses his Virginia Beach “skate-punk past” here. The work is graphic and contemporary. The curls and lines call to mind graffiti, an obvious trigger, while his symbolic language comes from advertising and consumer culture and is far less obvious. His graphics will be familiar — monkeys, bodies, skulls, bended lines all find homes here — but sly.

Read Laura James' review here.



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