Magazine article Artforum International

Ryan McNamara: Mary Boone Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Ryan McNamara: Mary Boone Gallery

Article excerpt

Ryan McNamara

MARY BOONE GALLERY

"This guy," says Ryan McNamara, holding up a small black-and-white photographic cutout, "was a contestant in a dance contest I held in Buenos Aires. The entire dance floor was full of 150 people all melting on top of each other and rolling all over each other." The fond recollection, and the frenetic clip that follows it, appears in a video on McNamara's website in which the artist introduces his practice, a singular blend of image- and object making, dance and performance, choreography and participation. McNamara's recent exhibition "Gently Used" may have seemed like an odd fit for this uptown space (it was curated by Piper Marshall, formerly of New York's Swiss Institute) but functioned nevertheless as a useful, compact primer on his high-spirited methodology, which melds an immersion in technology with an affection for the handmade, a studied interest in props and documents with a passion for the off-the-hook live spectacular.

An exhibition of static artworks by an artist identified so strongly with performance was always going to be a tricky proposition. How to avoid the deadening, for-fans-only effect that displays of documentation so often have, and the inevitable sense that "you had to be there"? In McNamara's case, the answer lay in avoiding the straightforward record altogether, opting instead for reworkings of costumes and other items previously used onstage (and that may well end up there again). Seemingly anxious that the space might still need livening up a bit, the artist also augmented the standard gallery lighting with looming theatrical spotlights that added fleeting bursts of color and brightness. Finally, however, there was enough going on in what the lights were trained on that the insistence on extra razzmatazz was superfluous.

McNamara's best-known live presentation is perhaps MEHM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, which premiered in 2013 at Performa 13 and was restaged at Art Basel Miami Beach this past December, and several of the works in this exhibition were related directly to that piece; others were derived from Misty Malarky Ying Yang, an unlikely sounding 2014 High Line commission for which the artist interpreted Jimmy Carter's 1979 "Malaise" speech as a dance production. …

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