On a recent phone call, Ryan McNamara wasn’t giving much away about what to expect from his new show at Mary Boone’s uptown location, which was curated by Piper Marshall and opens tonight.
“I think the element of surprise is really important to me,” he said. “If you haven’t been surprised by something you haven’t stayed long enough. That’s the idea.”
McNamara has been known more recently for his performance work—his dance piece “MEƎM: A Story Ballet About the Internet,” originally created for Performa, was generally thought to have stolen the show at Art Basel Miami Beach last month—but the Boone show, “Gently Used,” represents a return to the plastic.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a gallery show in New York,” he said. “So I’ve had to put that brain on again. That was weird, to realize that the performance brain had taken over a little bit, but I think you’ll see that this is an installation that I made kind of with my performance brain still on.”
“I’m treating all the pieces like performers in a way,” he added. “I think of this ephemera, discarded ephemera of costumes and sets and things like that, even the imagery, even the stills, as though they were thrown in the bin and got sick of being unused and created their own performances.”
But he still didn’t give anything away. The gallery’s post for the opening on Facebook says the show is “a relay powered by the mechanism of performance. Event generates material, material becomes art object, art object performs, only to be used as prop once again. The installation at Mary Boone Gallery reflects the cycle’s complex layers of material support, with special consideration given to the current trigger-happy nature of transmission and reception.”
Whatever that means! McNamara, over the phone, said the show is to some extent about gallery shows, since his performance brain finds it hard to remove context from art. Still, he said he enjoyed going back to objects.
“I got a BFA and an MFA in photography and sculpture, that’s actually how I entered into this, and performance kind of came out of that organically,” he said. “So in a way this feels like visiting home.”