Love Letter to Painters
“The real purpose of painting is to give pleasure.”
Robert Ryman knew nothing about painting when he moved to New York in the 1950s. But by the 1960s, no one loved painting more than Ryman. To love painting means not just consistently making objects. It means employing all feasible painting possibilities. Oil, acrylic, gouache, enamel, casein, varathane, vinyl polymer, baked enamel, varnish, ink, graphite, linen, cotton, wood, aluminum, copper, plexiglass, steel, wax paper, gauze, pastel, you name it. And this is not from a painting encyclopedia. These are the materials that Ryman used extensively throughout his artistic career. And it is not just the materials. The way his paintings are attached to a wall, his titles, or the painting approach - everything points to the endless love. Love for painting.
What is a painting if the traditional conventions along with decorative or illustrative aspects are denied? Perhaps I am being romantic here, but Ryman’s oeuvre is contemplating two periods when painting was in doubt. First, the 1960s. Then, the 80s. His work is in direct conversation with the entire art world outside of the painting club. With people who have tried to bury painting for more than one hundred eighty years. And Ryman is not afraid to fight.
Nothing is more boring than reading Kosuth or Buchloh with their “morphological grounds.” Nothing is more enjoyable than looking at Ryman’s paintings in Beacon with its pleasing philosophical calmness. Robert Ryman demonstrates if there is a meaning, it is out of our intellectual reach.
Robert Ryman, Untitled, Oil on unstretched linen, 1961
Robert Ryman, Large-small, thick-thin, light reflecting, light absorbing 3, Acrylic and enamel on Tyvek, staples, 2009
Robert Ryman, Untitled, Gouache and casein on printed manilla paper, 1959