Ryan Travis Christian at Western Exhibitions

I’ve never seen anyone successfully treat a pencil as a painting tool the way Ryan Travis Christian does. In his current show, entitled River Rats, at Western Exhibitions is a large array of his recent drawings of technically proficient geometric explosions, early 20th century-style cartoon characters, drug references, and op-art patterns that fluctuate between being graphic and expressionistic. The space in the drawings is both converging and exploding simultaneously. The work itself seems mischievous, the product of a recurring theme of a self-referential suburban upbringing and the tomfoolery that accompanies the banality of growing up in the ‘burbs. Again, what I find most striking about Ryan’s work is how painterly it is. Without the interjection of the cartoon figures, the drawings could be a hybrid of early Guston and Joan Mitchell; an ethereal mass of gestures and mark-making that the figures come in and out of. - Josh Reames, Chicago Contributor

Ryan Travis Christian | Western Exhibitions Installation Shot

Ryan Travis Christian | FWoods,  graphite on paper, 7.5”x10”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian| Palmer, charcoal and graphite on wall, 120”x100”, 2011

In gallery 2, Ryan is showing a series of collaborations with artists such as Geoffrey Todd Smith, Ted Gahl, Cody Hudson, and Rachel Niffenegger. He has managed to maintain his authority in all of the works, though the variety in them (due to the collaborators) is nice to see. There is always something thrilling about seeing collaborations; maybe it is the idea of teamwork between artists or the unexpected results of relinquishing total control over a project, I’m not sure. Whatever it may be, it is exciting.

Ryan Travis Christian and Matthew Palladino | untitled, gouache on paper, 14.25”x11”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian and Geoffrey Todd Smith | Sacagahontas and Toby Come Upon an Orchid, graphite, gouache, and gel pen on paper, 15”x10.75”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian and Eddie Martinez | Untitled, 11”x14.75”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian | River Cats 1 (NO NO), graphite on paper, 10”x11.75”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian | River Rats 1, graphite on paper, 14”x10.75”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian| River Cats 2 (Well Lit), graphite and colored pencil on paper, 24”x22.5”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian | V Day (used), graphite/gouache/color pencil on paper, 13.25”x10.75”, 2011

Ryan Travis Christian | Vandermere (FRD #1), graphite and color pencil on paper, 23”x20”, 2011


Ryan Travis Christian has had solo shows at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco and Ebersmoore in Chicago, and has been included in group show at Show and Tell in Toronto, Eric Firestone Gallery in East Hampton, MAMA in Rotterdam, Baer Ridgway in San Francisco, Space 1026 in Philadelphia and Synchronicty in Los Angeles and has curated exhibitions at many of these same venues. New City named Christian as one of Chicago’s “Breakout Artists” for 2010 and his work has been written about in Daily Serving, Beautiful/Decay and The Chicago Reader.

Josh Reames is a Chicago-based artist and director of Manifest Exhibitions


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