Chromatic Archive: Lisa Ruyter at Connersmith

There’s a seemingly direct line between Lisa Ruyter’s work and pop art. Like pop art, Ruyter’s paintings are guided by photography and mass media, her appropriation strategies a central crux of her compositions. But her artistic concerns are decidedly unwarholian. Rather than revisiting pop art’s critique of commodity culture, Ruyter is more interested in reframing the conceptual meeting point between image and color, obliterating photographic affect and repurposing meaning along the way. Indeed, much of the photographs’ original “truth” is lost when viewed through Ruyter’s decadently neon prism, nearly as abstract as it is figurative.

LISA RUYTER | Arthur Rothstein “Dry and parched earth in the badlands of South Dakota” | 2009, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 59 inches. Image courtesy of Connersmith

Connersmith (formerly Conner Contemporary) is currently exhibiting Let Us Now Praise Famous Men(September 8 through October 20), a collection of Ruyter’s most recent paintings. Whereas much of the artist’s previous work sourced her own photography — snapshots of late night partying, shopping malls, and street scenes — Let Us Now Praise Famous Men mines the hallowed cultural ground of the Farm Security Administration’s photography project, navigating its weighty visual implications. 

Under Ruyter’s conceptual agency the iconic images produced by FSA photographers like Arthur Rothstein and Russell Lee are scrubbed, details and visual gradients foregone for the sake of a kind of flat archetypal clarity. The sterilized results are like misguided color-by-numbers, formally concise and chromatically mismatched, devoid of their original emotional heft. In effect, Ruyter’s imprints are uncanny stand-ins — photographs without a photographic image, paintings without a painterly assertion. They’re meant to be indexical in their frugality, documents of documents of us.

LISA RUYTER |Ben Shahn “Daughters of Mr. Thaxton, near Mechanicsburg, Ohio” |2011, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 87 inches. Image courtesy of Connersmith

LISA RUYTER | Marion Post Wolcott “Natchitoches, Louisiana” | 2010, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 59 inches. Image courtesy of Connersmith

LISA RUYTER | Let us now Praise Famous Men | 2012, installation view, CONNERSMITH. Image courtesy of Connersmith

LISA RUYTER | Let us now Praise Famous Men | 2012, installation view, CONNERSMITH. Image courtesy of Connersmith

Ruyter’s works may be seen in the following collections: Collection of Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, Sharon CT; Collection le Consortium, Dijon, France; Denver Art Museum; Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Austria; Colección INELCOM, Madrid; La Colección Jumex, México; Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Proje4L Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Collection VAC (Valencia Arte Contemporáneo),Valencia, Spain.

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