VIDEO: Will Ryman Recreates Gripping Historical Moment at Paul Kasmin Gallery

Watch Ryman as he explains his view of the Situation Room.


For his recent work The Situation Room (2012-2014), artist Will Ryman transformed crushed black coal into an ominous yet sparkly tableau of figures around a conference table. The piece is inspired by the highly charged 2011 picture depicting President Barack Obama surrounded by members of his national security team as they receive live updates on the raid of al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“When I saw that photograph,” Ryman told artnet News, “I knew right away I wanted to do something.” He added, “I felt a little manipulated by the photograph.”

The work is one of two installations in his new show “Two Rooms” at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, which opens this week and explores themes of education, mass production, economics, and political theater. The other installation, Classroom (2015), depicts three rows of children seated as if in class and is created from a variety of materials including salt, cadmium pigment, and crude oil.

While scale has often been central to Ryman’s work, as with The Roses—a 2011 sculptural installation of 25-foot-tall roses composed of steel and fiberglass along the Park Avenue mall—the works in this show are seemingly true to size and serve as a platform for Ryman to grapple with concerns he’s been interested in since he created America (2013), a life-size replica of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood log cabin, which was inlaid with symbolically weighty objects including shackles, bullets, pharmaceutical pills, and soda can tabs.

Get an early view of the show in this video and hear Ryman describe the new work in his own words.

Will Ryman’s “Two Rooms” will be on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 515 West 27th Street, beginning September 10.

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