Robert Ryman

 

Profile

Robert Ryman was born and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He started out as a musician but became one of the foremost painters of his generation. As a boy, Ryman studied piano and he later took up the saxophone. In 1952 he headed for New York to study with a Jazz pianist. In New York Ryman took a string of odd jobs - Email-room clerk, etc. to support himself. He started working as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1953 and during that year made his first paintings.
In 1955, Ryman began what he considers his earliest professional work, a largely monochrome painting titled "Orange Painting." His work was first exhibited at a staff show at MoMA, but in 1961 he began to paint on a full time basis. In 1966 Ryman’s work was included in an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with 28 other artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollock, and Frank Stella. His first solo exhibition in a New York museum was also at the Guggenheim, in 1972. He was also exhibited that year in Documenta in Kassel.

Ryman was inspired by the work he saw daily at MoMA, particularly paintings by Matisse and Rothko. Significantly, during the period that Ryman worked at MoMA there were exhibitions featuring Abstract Expressionist works, including the seminal "The New American Painting" exhibit that gave recognition to this movement. Ryman set out to explore all the subtleties of texture, the qualities of pigment, all the shades of "white" and the natural colors of the surfaces to which he applied his brush - from traditional canvas and linen to steel, copper, fiberglass and a range of synthetic materials. The result is a body of work unique in the history of modern painting for its attention to the specifics of the medium made visible through the consistent use of one basic tone.
Ryman is often referred to as a painter of "white paintings," but he has protested, saying "I’m not really interested in white as a color, although I have at times used different whites for different purposes. White is used instrumentally and for itself; but ‘whiteness′ as such is not the work’s subject or essence. When it snows, you see things clearly that you didn’t see before. So the white can eliminate certain visual clutter so that you can see nuances and certain things that you wouldn’t be aware of ordinarily."
Ryman has also said of his work: "There is never a question of what to paint, but only how to paint. The how of painting has always been the image."

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Robert Ryman was born and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.
He started out as a musician but became one of the foremost painters of his generation. As a boy, Ryman studied piano and he later took up the saxophone. In 1952 he headed for New York to study with a Jazz pianist. In New York Ryman took a string of odd jobs -mail-room clerk, etc. to support himself. He started working as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1953 and during that year made his first paintings.

In 1955, Ryman began what he considers his earliest professional work, a largely monochrome painting titled "Orange Painting."
His work was first exhibited at a staff show at MoMA, but in 1961 he began to paint on a full time basis. In 1966 Ryman’s work was included in an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with 28 other artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollock, and Frank Stella. His first solo exhibition in a New York museum was also at the Guggenheim, in 1972. He was also exhibited that year in Documenta in Kassel.

Ryman was inspired by the work he saw daily at MoMA, particularly paintings by Matisse and Rothko. Significantly, during the period that Ryman worked at MoMA there were exhibitions featuring Abstract Expressionist works, including the seminal "The New American Painting" exhibit that gave recognition to this movement. Ryman set out to explore all the subtleties of texture, the qualities of pigment,
all the shades of "white" and the natural colors of the surfaces to which he applied his brush -from traditional canvas and linen to steel, copper, fiberglass and a range of synthetic materials. The result is a body of work unique in the history of modern painting for its attention to the specifics of the medium made visible through the consistent use of one basic tone.

Ryman is often referred to as a painter of "white paintings," but he has protested, saying "I’m not really interested in white as a color, although I have at times used different whites for different purposes. White is used instrumentally and for itself; but 'whiteness'as such is not the work’s subject or essence. When it snows, you see things clearly that you didn’t see before. So the white can eliminate certain visual clutter so that you can see nuances and certain things that you wouldn’t be aware of ordinarily."

Ryman has also said of his work: "There is never a question of what to paint, but only how to paint. The how of painting has always been the image."

Biography

  1930  Born 30 May at Nashville, Tenn., U.S.A.
  1949 Transferred from Tennessee Polytechnic Institute to George Peabody College
  1952 Moved to New York to study jazz
  1953 Took a position of a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Made his first paintings
  1966 Work was included in Systematic Painting at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York
  1967 Fist solo exhibition at Paul Bianchini Gallery, New York
  1972 First retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum
  1974 Retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  1980-82 Retrospective exhibitions at InK Halle für Internationale Neue Kunst, Zurich, Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, the Pompidou Center, Paris
  1988 Solo exhibition at Dia Art Foundation, New York
  1993-94 Large retrospectives traveled to London, Madrid, Minneapolis, San Francisco and New York
  1994 Inducted as an Honorary Member into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
  2004  First solo exhibition in Asia at the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Chiba, Japan