Most of the works in “Robert Ryman: Variations and Improvisations” are untitled, so I’d urge you to look at the next line on each placard, on which materials are noted. You might find a comically long list, as with Untitled (1957), which is comprised of casein and graphite on primed and sized unstretched cotton canvas on board on Manila-paper folder on glass on plywood. Ryman is a painter’s painter, and these works are his experiments. Each canvas or panel shows how disparate materials interact, whether it’s the way paint clings to the grain of raw linen or the sheen of epoxy on cotton. Even the way the panels are attached to the wall plays into his considerations of art as a non-narrative object. That’s why, though he doesn’t fit the traditional definition, Ryman considers himself a realist. Stripped down to the bare minimum of surface and materials, his art is about nothing but itself.
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