Ivy vines creep around a block of stone. 84 parrots perch on the recumbent frame of a giant satellite dish, the sort that could collect hundreds of exotic stations in the 1980s. Three lemons in different stages of decay describe the nuanced culture of mould. A hanging basket of industrial iron calipers cradles a cornucopia of fruit.
Ryan creates sculpture in the palette of the American vernacular, drawing on trinkets and souvenirs, hobbies and leisure, the rudimentary phenomena of nature, or the home accoutrements that serve as modest markers of status. Her subjects are the stuff of consumerism, the stuff people put around themselves and understand. We know these objects, what they are and what they do, and there is comfort in familiarity: it brings inanimate things near to us, and makes them part of us. This is the essence of the everyday object, dissolving into our lives.
But these objects do not dissolve. In wet clay, the parrots are squeezed into being, then cooked and killed, glazed forever. They still bear fingerprints, though. Gem, pearl and bone beads accumulate on the surfaces of the lemons like cells dividing. The bronze threads and jade leaves of ivy dance around the granite block’s heavy geometric mass. The parabola of the satellite dish wants to receive the sky, but the birds just want to sit on it. Ryan pulls apart and reassembles her subjects and the narratives they bear, contrasting sensual materials with no-nonsense units of industry, explosion with containment, speed with precision, elegance with kitsch, and gravity with weightlessness. She compromises her subjects by creating tension in the identity and the will of their materials. They are not familiar, because they will not settle down.
The works in this exhibition are elegiac, strong memento mori drawn from centuries of art history as much as the Tuesday misery of finding citrus going bad. Jewel-encrusted fruit call to reliquaries; the creeping vines tell the gravestone how much time has passed. The mouldy lemons are returning to the earth, from where they came. Death is something to consider. And yet, arrested in the amber between day and night, there is nothing to mourn.