An artist can go through an entire career and not find a distinctive style – a certain manipulation of materials or formal elements in a work of art that makes it unmistakably their own.
Ten abstract wall sculptures by Dallas-based Ryan Goolsby show us how it’s done. They are all wooden, as well as a bench, and they were all executed in 2022.
They are part of “Control”, a new exhibition at the Erin Cluley Gallery in the Design District. These complex and often fascinating pieces, perhaps even objects, defy easy characterization as they channel an array of artistic practices from modernist stripe painting and Op Art to the Pattern and Decoration movement.
Goolsby says he uses “a mix of traditional woodworking and digital fabrication techniques” that you might compare to making furniture from scratch using a computer. He paints the works by hand at the end.
They are easily comparable to the shaped canvases first made by Frank Stella who introduced geometric abstraction in the late 1950s, but these works go much deeper in the complexity involved in the process, giving more into the end result. .
Goolsby’s stripes and lines aren’t just painted on a flat surface. It designs patterns and lines in sequence which are cut into the wooden surface with a bit. After applying the paint, the depth of the cutout part reveals raw wood, combining mechanical and organic elements in images that communicate an uncanny familiarity as it frees the original source image from its context.
Heavy with pattern as a nod to the Pattern and Decoration movement are two examples, both called Untitled, one mostly blue, the other teal. In each, Goolsby applies an outer layer of resin to keep the wood intact despite the intricacy of the cuts. Finished in ink and embossed paint respectively, they defy the eye with an interwoven pattern that cuts right through the wood so you can see the wall through a calculated series of openings.
Goolsby is interested in iconic imagery as well as social space and architecture, so it’s no surprise the artist designed another Untitledwhere green is the dominant color, to commandeer a corner space in the gallery.
Starting from opposite ends, wooden planks with six strips each rise from the ground and undulate sinuously until they come together in a sort of apex in the corner. They almost look like lines of force that direct traffic, or the flow of people in a public space where the universal language of visual communication best manages the work.
In a 70 inch tall work, also called Untitled, a deep blue acrylic lends materiality and texture to a piece shaped like a vertical tube. It was executed with wavy lines to the right and left that complete a central phrase, the only part that cuts through.
Here, the entire surface is soaked in blue pigment. This easily depicts a sculptural capstone image directly channeling Op Art, a style that uses optical illusions. It simply vibrates with energetic intensity, highlighted by excellent lighting against a white wall. You could never get tired of watching it.
This perhaps indicates a new direction for Goolsby in expanding his already well-established signature style.
Ryan Goolsby’s ‘Control’ exhibition runs through October 1 at the Erin Cluley Gallery, 150 Manufacturing St., Suite 210, Dallas. Wednesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free. For more information, call 214-760-1155 or visit erincluley.com.