Nov 29, 2011

REVIEW | Ryan McGinness: Works Rizzoli Press ,2009

Ryan McGinness, Works book cover, 2009
I judge books by their covers, especially the ones about art. Honestly I plucked it from the shelf in a hurry while rushing out of the library, figuring that it was cool because the font wasn't tacky. A week later I remembered that it wasn't a coaster and skimmed through it and came to the (wrong) conclusion that it was just a about some hipster and his silk screens, and once again I lost interest. The third time was a charm, and I ultimately ended up swooning not only over the artist, Ryan Mcginness but over the clever format of the book itself.
Ryan McGinness, 2009

The book is exactly what you'd expect from it's straight forward title (Works: Paintings, Sculptures, Sketches, Drawings, Installations, Editions, and Other Stuff). It is sectioned off by bright colors ranging from red to violet, each representing a different section providing am easier way digest the mass of art and text in front of you. This definitely put me at ease and helped me keep my focus while reading. The book begins with a Q & A section and "Notes from a former assistant" giving it's reader a taste of who Ryan McGinness is as a person and an artist so before you're able to really dissect his work you learn about his interests, struggles and creative process. In class, a discussion that comes up from time to time, came up in my head about a million times while gazing at the Q&A.  I wondered if my knowledge about McGinness would effect whether I enjoyed this book, and his art pieces. Before reading Works, I had always strongly stuck by the whole "the art matters not the artist" thing, but personally I feel like gaining knowledge about his process and him personally, ultimately made me more inclined to enjoy his graphics.

Design by Ryan McGinness, 2009
Beyond the sections full of texts there is a chapter full of sketches beginning with an excerpt detailing Guinness's entire process of his printmaking. The reader gets to see his entire selection of sketches and more popular images in their infancy. Flipping over to the next chapter "Silkscreen, letter press, and lithography", the reader gets a chance to see them completed, gaining a complete understanding of his process.
Ryan McGinness, Untitled (Sculpture Study 5), 2009, acrylic on acrylic
After scanning through dozens and dozens of pieces, I arrived at the end of Works, 500 questions posed by Tom Greenwood and 500 answers from Ryan McGinness. Some friendly, some irrelevant, some epic. Question 500 brought me back full circle to a question we ask ourselves as viewers of contemporary art; what is art?
I believe art is a thoughtful idea thoughtfully materialized. I believe in craft, and I believe in the artists hand. I believe in the human touch. I do not want to be a machine. I think there is a big difference between artist and director. I also believe in individual authorship as a means of undiluted accountability. I believe the best art is made with unwavering conviction. And, I believe the best artists help us see the world in new ways by contributing unique and original forms to our collective understanding of who we are and why we are here.
I think Guinness's answer will tie me over for a while.
-Kassidy Pritchard


  1. I appreciate when artist share whats going on in their minds. Some artist are so complex and always leave us wondering and that can sometimes frustrate me. So when an artist with crazy complex work like Ryan McGinnis forms some sort of relationship with his viewers it really makes me appreciate the artist as a person and their work even more. Thank you for sharing this book. Im going to make it a point to check it out sometime soon.
    -Amye Patrick