Ryan Foerster, Change Both Rib @CLEARING

JTF (just the facts): Hanging on the white walls of the gallery’s downstairs space:

  • 9 mixed-media works on aluminum printing plates, dated 2014–2014/18, each measuring 36 x 23¾ inches
  • 12 C-prints with debris, dated 2018, each measuring 14¾ x 11¾ inches
  • 1 C-print, dated 2017, measuring 20 x 24 inches

All the works are unique save the 2017 C-print, which is available in an edition of 3.

In addition to photographs, the exhibition includes the following:

  • 1 artist-made bench
  • 1 metal park bench customized by the artist
  • 1 coffee table customized by the artist
  • 2 found-object assemblages
  • 1 melted-glass sculpture

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: For the past decade, Canadian-born photographer Ryan Foerster has employed recycled or repurposed materials and chance operations to create his largely photo-based art. Much of this output has focused on his personal, domestic, and geographic circumstances, and for his third solo exhibition at Clearing, Foerster has taken as his starting point the relatively ungentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach—where he has lived since 2011—and its inhabitants.

Two impressive series of works anchor the show. The first is a set of nine silvery, ink-clogged printing plates, a favored support for Foerster, who also runs a small press. Left over from a book Foerster published of a neighbor’s jokes, the pieces combine text, Gerhard Richter-like stutters of black pigment, and a sprinkling of casual black-and-white snapshots mounted to their surfaces, to present simultaneous portraits of an effusive acquaintance (in run-on stanzas of said acquaintance’s rather awful one-liners), a neighborhood (in an image of a small detached building half hidden behind a fence), and (in other pictures, where he is an unseen gardener, lover, or flaneur) the artist himself.

With their rich mix of painterly abstraction and representation, the pieces call to mind Robert Rauschenberg’s grisaille silkscreen paintings of the 1960s. But the lack of expressiveness in their repetitive passages of applied color—an artifact of the printing process—and the ordinariness of the images in them mark these works as wholly contemporary.

For a second series, Foerster placed his pots of young tomato plants outdoors on discarded test sheets of photo paper. Scattered across the rippled paper, rainbow-hued rings, circles, and spatters left by the bottoms of the pots in the photo paper’s emulsion resemble exploding stars, or blooms of mold. The most abstract works in the show, they seem earthier cousins of the process-driven photographs of Liz Deschenes.

The exhibition also includes several pieces of furniture made or altered by the artist, and three found-object sculptures, including a bundled and weather-beaten stack of newspapers still bound with twine, capped with a length of the metal spikes repel pigeons from perches on New York City lintels and roofs. Like the homemade bench and table in a corner of the gallery, they read less as stand-alone pieces than as pendants to Foerster’s understated but resonant photoworks.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show range in price from $2800 for a C-print with debris to $8000 for a mixed-media work on aluminum printing plate. Foerster’s photographic works have little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Read more about: Ryan Foerster, CLEARING

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