Ryan Gander Wows at First New York Solo Show in Nearly a Decade
He's calling out fake behavior and art world clichés.
A hands-down favorite of the packed fall roster of gallery shows is Ryan Gander’s first solo New York show in nearly a decade, at Lisson Gallery’s cavernous new Chelsea space. Titled “I see straight through you” (September 16–October 15), it features works in a wide range of media that reflect the artist’s signature mix of wit and humor.
Performa organized a tour of the show with Gander himself on the day of the opening, kicked off by a walk-through with architect Christian Wassmann, who designed Lisson’s new digs.
One of the first sights greeting visitors is a pair of animatronic eyes set into the wall, which react to movements in the gallery, titled Dominae Illud Opus Populare (2016). As you walk around the space, the eyes convey a wide range of emotions, from curiosity to suspicion.
The same concept continues in a of figurative steel armatures placed throughout the gallery, called “Dramaturgical frameworks,” that, again, despite having no face or even a head, immediately convey feelings including exhaustion, sorrow, or disgust. It’s a theatrical approach that the artist is aware of, and plays on.
Gander explained to artnet News:
I think all good artwork and ideas starts somewhere and end up in lots of places. It refers to being able to see through someone physically, like the armature skeletons you can literally physically see straight through them. But it also relates to the idea that when you see through someone, you see through a façade or pretense that they’re acting and that their behavior is staged. The figures are called ‘dramaturgical frameworks.’ It’s a phrase by the sociologist Erving Goffman that means your whole life is a drama. You live in your own drama…so it’s false behavior.
A highlight of the show is the ambitious project titled Fieldwork, which consists of a walled-off installation in a purpose-built space where seemingly random objects and assemblages are carried along a conveyor belt. The installation is meant to be viewed through a small window, in front of which is a single chair and table with a catalogue containing Gander’s essays—one for each object. The objects are all crafted or drawn from Gander’s collection, and the work is intended to function as a self-portrait of sorts. (Expect a wait if you want to sit in the coveted chair.)
Near the gallery entrance, close to the floor, is a mouse hole cut into the wall, stuffed with British 20-pound notes and plaster. Gander joked the notes are now worth about $1 post-Brexit; the title is I’m never coming back to New York (2016).
Gander explained that this work, too, is connected to the idea of false behavior and pretense:
There is a cliché that at art openings people are so preoccupied with who is important and the elite status of this whole system that people just look over each other’s shoulders and wave. It’s very superficial behavior which is, I would say, enhanced in Chelsea…It feels to me like I’m in the Basquiat movie right here talking to you now.
We hope this doesn’t mean it will take another decade for the artist to return to New York.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.