- Robert Ryman
- Series #18 (White)
- signed, titled, dated 03 and numbered 03.007 on the overlap
- oil and gesso on canvas
- 16 by 16 in. 40.6 by 40.6 cm.
- Executed in 2003, this work will be listed as catalogue number 03.007 in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being organized by David Gray.
Acquired by the present owner from the above in January 2005
Ryman spent three years as a gallery assistant at the Museum of Modern Art where he was surrounded by work of the masters of 20th Century art, which was instrumental in Ryman’s identification of the essentials of paint: "I wanted to see what the paint would do, how the brushes would work. That was the first step. I just played around. I had nothing really in mind to paint. I was just finding out how the paint worked, colors, thick and thin, the brushes, surfaces" (Suzanne Hudson, "Robert Ryman: The How and The What”, Flash Art, No. 263, November 2009).
The use of white paint is important as it is the least intrusive of tones, often matching the walls on which the paintings are hung. The lack of color allows for the mechanics of painting such as the brushstroke or support structure to become more apparent. In Series #18 (White), Ryman primed the canvas with a dark, rich black layer of paint, then masked it with thick, opaque white brushstrokes. The texture of the canvas is unified with the painted surface thus fusing paint and canvas irrevocably. This conflation of two traditionally separate aspects of a painting into one is integral to Ryman’s desire to have his paintings be seen as objects rather than a two-dimensional picture plane. The wall becomes the ground to Ryman’s painterly objects. This brings an unprecedented degree of “realism” into Ryman’s work and banishes all form of illusion thus flouting absolutely rules that had been in place since the beginning of the Renaissance.
Ryman explains his unique and revolutionary form of painting as something that moves beyond the dialectic of representation versus abstraction into something unquestionably real and material, “With realism there is no picture and since there is no picture, there is no story. And there is no myth. And, there is no illusion, above all. So lines are real, and the space is real, the surface is real and there is an interaction between the painting and the wall plane, unlike with abstraction and representation." Series #18 (White) is a paradigmatic example of Ryman’s quest to abandon illusion in order to create a painting that co-inhabits the space of the viewer and relates to space and architecture in the way that an object does.