Curator and artist Jack Ryan’s sculpture, drawing, sound, and video works often deal with intersections of the natural and manmade worlds. A campfire may be represented by flickering amber bulbs, the beautiful powdery cascade of an avalanche obliterates a shack, the moon’s glow is represented by a circular fluorescent tube, an entire exhibition is curated around Werner Herzog’s trek across Europe on foot in the middle of winter. And Ryan has explored other liminal spaces in the natural world as where the ocean meets the shore in the video “Never Surrender.” As you might be able to tell from that title, there is often a wry humor in Ryan’s idiosyncratic work as with Scriabin’s Mustache, the solo exhibition of work he built around the carbuncle embedded in the mustache of early modern Russian composer and mystic Alexander Scriabin whose rupture killed him. Ryan’s interest in Scriabin may have been because of the composer’s mysticism, and the resulting works may have been elegant, but the note of dark humor remains. See also his body of work around a YouTube video of the explosion of a dead whale on an Oregon beach in 1970.
But Ryan has a way of cutting to the essence of the thing: the form of a long piece of driftwood as mimicked by a fluorescent tube embedded in it, or the sound of light—solar wind field recordings that are part of the soundtrack to the video “Moonrise.” In fact the group exhibition Trait at Archer Gallery, seemed to have been curated by Blake Shell around Ryan’s ability to get at the thingness of the thing in an elegant manner.
Ryan’s work has been exhibited or screened internationally at venues including The Drawing Center, American University Museum: Katzen Arts Center, The New Media Institute, The Canadian Film and Video Institute @The Banff Center and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Ryan was recently included in the Portland2012 Biennial at the Art Gym at Marylhurst University.