Two exceptional paintings in Ryan Schneider’s current New York solo exhibition at Priska Juschka Fine Arts are the self portraits,“The Drip, Etc” and “Self-Portrait as Missing”. “The Drip, Etc” reads like an updated version of Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. The Van Gogh painting depicts the artist with his head wrapped in white gauze after a mythic act of self-inflicted violence fueled by madness and 19th century angst. Schneider also deals with a type of self-inflicted brutality this time in the form of rampant drug use. White chunks of cocaine drip from the subject’s nose while swirls of dripping paint double as streaks of sweat surrounding hollow brown eyes. In Schneider’s painting, Van Gogh’s white bandage is replaced by the letters ‘ETC’ carved maniacally into the surface of the canvas near the subject’s forehead. This unexpected moment points less at psychological madness
and more at 21st century ambivalence, disaffection, and drug fueled brainstorming sessions where new ideas flash and fade in the same instant. The letters ‘ETC’ allude to the contemporary painters struggle to continually make new work, cover new ground, and avoid the sinking feeling that everything has been done before.
In “Self-Portrait as Missing” Schneider replaces the central subject with a ghost like outline surrounding a human form of painterly drips and washes. Featuring a linear composition and vibrating interior patterns, this painting follows many tenets of traditional portraiture, but with one major twist: the subject is invisible. One could interpret this painting as a visual manifestation of existential notions of ‘nothingness’ in which the subject empties his mind and body to transcend conscious thought. It could also be read as the artist imaging a time after his own death in which his spiritual presence is still felt despite the extinction of his physical body. But a closer analysis of this painting’s minutia offer clues to a different explanation. Strewn across the two foreground tabletops are numerous wine bottles, beer cans, cigarettes, and lines of powdered narcotics. This artist uses drugs and alcohol the way Frodo Baggins uses his magical ring—to disappear. The failure of this strategy is obvious and tragic, but serves as the source for many of the paintings in this strange and anxiety laden show.
The name of Schneider’s exhibition is “Send Me Through”. In connection with the ghost-like figure in “Self-Portrait as Missing” it is easy to think of the artist as passing like a spooky apparition through the walls of the gallery and beyond. This title could also be read as the subject calling out to an often-unsympathetic art world to “send me through” the glass ceiling built up around so many young artists. But mostly it seems upon the creation and display of his complicated and disturbing paintings Schneider is urgently demanding something of his maker: send me through the turmoil and into the peaceable realm.
Daniel Heidkamp, 2010
I have no idea…