On Thursday January 10th, AF visited the VIP celebrity packed opening show by filmmaker and artist Ryan Piers Williams called “Monsters & Landscapes”, which was on view through January 18th on the Lower East Side. This is Ryan’s first solo exhibition in New York. His wife, America Ferrera, best known for her leading role in the show Ugly Betty, was there to greet guests and to support Ryan through the exhibition. The show was a mixture of his new abstract paintings, the Don’t Move series, a video, a polaroid project called 365 DEGREES and a Black Box installation, which was my personal favorite. We also stopped by his studio in Gowanus to see more work and to speak to him about this show.
What made you decide to get into fine art?
I started painting in 2002 when I was in film school at USC. I was yearning for another art form to explore my creativity. I love making films, and will continue to do so, but the process of making a film can take years to complete. I love the immediacy of painting and the way it allows for my ideas to take physical form. What I found with painting is that I could do it anywhere and at any time. Painting allows for me to explore very personal thoughts and emotions in a physical, tactile way.
Can you talk about your process?
When I begin a painting, I usually start with an emotion and an abstract image that is pulling at me in some way. I use the image and feeling as a starting point. Once I begin painting I am setting out on a journey, following the thread of inspiration, in a process in which I am both intellectually acting and instinctively reacting to the movement of the piece.
What is the inspiration behind Monsters & Landscapes?
Fueled by my desire to discover and understand my own monsters and landscapes, my artwork in this series serves to connect and reflect on the opposing forces that shape our world and our individual beings. The series began in 2010 with my 365 Degrees of Instant Film, in which I took one Polaroid a day for a year. I was using the project to explore the beautiful and destructive relationship between humans and the natural world. In the project I took photos of humans and nature in their purest form as well as pictures of the ways in which they destroy each other. The paintings and other artworks in my show are further explorations of this theme.
The Don’t Move pieces are very relevant with what is happening right now in this country. How do you feel about the recent protests?
My Don’t Move series is a visceral depiction of our culture of fear in modern society and its effects on the individual. Comprised of shotgun blasted targets with the words “DON’T MOVE” printed over the silhouette of a bloody body, the series is intended to ignite a socially relevant conversation about our freedom to move about, express, and speak out in a society where the fear of being shot down, metaphorically or literally, is a pervasive one. It is an absolute tragedy what is happening in our country, and world, right now. I think it is very important for people to peacefully organize, express and stand up for their rights and not be held down by fear.
I loved the photo story/project downstairs. Can you elaborate on this?
365 DEGREES is a two-part project in which I explore the rapid-rate in which humans capture and manipulate our natural world through technology. The first part to the project is 365 DEGREES OF INSTANT FILM in which I took one Polaroid each day for a year starting in the fall of 2010 and ending in the summer in 2011. In my photos I explore the relationship between the natural images I capture and the destructive quality of the man made development process. Using the volatile Impossible Project Polaroid film, the images I took are warped and manipulated by the imperfect technology. Expanding on 365 DEGREES OF INSTANT FILM, I use Instagram as an alternative exhibition space for 365 DEGREES OF INSTAGRAM. For the project, I make one Instagram video everyday for one year starting in the fall of 2014 and ending in the summer of 2015. Instead of the instant film technology, I use Instagram filters, music, and editing to manipulate the images I capture to further explore my Monsters & Landscapes theme.
I tried out the “Black Box” and found myself enjoying the peace and quiet it provided. I realized later on that everything I was doing was being projected on the TV outside. What is the purpose of this interactive piece?
Inspired by black box flight recorders the BLACK BOX is an interactive installation piece that aims to capture a person’s “landscape” when removed from outside stimulus. The BLACK BOX explores the natural human resting state when separated from the hyper stimulation of our modern society and captures video of this moment. However, by capturing this “landscape” on camera it reminds us of the paradox that permeates our current culture; even in our most private moments we are often interacting with the outside world.
It has been very interesting to observe people in the box. I find that the experience of being in the box quickly makes a person aware of their private and public persona. For some it seems to be a very serene experience, whereas for others it can be a very uncomfortable one.
What do you want the viewer to walk away with after seeing your show?
I created the show around the idea of accessibility. I want people to be able to observe my art, discover the themes in the work, interact with the work, and become a part of the exhibition by way of the Black Box. I believe we all have beautiful and destructive forces in us. My show aims to illuminate some of my monsters and landscapes and invites people to share their own.
Ryan Piers Williams: Monsters & Landscapes
January 10 – 18 , 2015
142 Henry Street, NYC
Interview by Jamie Martinez
Photography provided by the artist