Thu Feb 22 2007
Photograph courtesy Envoy Gallery
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Painting quickly-brushed figures in impasto atop flat, meticulously hard-edged grounds, Ryan Steadman portrays people in the built environment in his show, “Lost City.” Diagonal stripes become steps, for example, with two figures lounging at the top and a third climbing toward them. A note of alarm is sounded in a panel filled with scores of small red and pink lozenges resembling a tiled floor; an area of missing “tiles” spells out sos near a shirtless man waving a white cloth. The figure, made from little more than a few tidy daubs, signifies Expressionistic gesture, which Steadman plays off against modernist painting’s other signature device, geometric abstraction. By contrasting these two styles, Steadman schematically, but rather sweetly, depicts a schism between human beings and the rigid world they construct and inhabit.
In Falling Building, slanted parallelograms in shades of azure and periwinkle define the corner of a skyscraper in axonometric perspective. Irregular orange and red shapes rupture the facade, wafting scumbled smoke, while 11 small figures variously peer out, hang on or jump from the burning structure. At the bottom of the painting, two people hold hands in free fall, like skydivers without parachutes. Making reference to 9/11 with Crayola colors and a cartoonist’s sensibility is a risky move, but, much like Art Spiegelman’s comic-strip account of the day’s horror, Steadman’s deft touch allows us to consider the tragedy without recoiling. — Joseph R. Wolin