Ryan Johnson: Dear Shadow

October 15th - November 14th, 2020
  • Dear Shadow, installation view

Nina Johnson is proud to present Dear Shadow, an exhibition of five recent sculptures by Ryan Johnson, opening on October 15th on view through November 14th, 2020.

Ryan Johnson’s new sculptures render dreamlike subjects in stark silhouettes and polished surfaces. Carefully modeled out of epoxy clay, the objects have a density and sheen that allow for a nuanced interplay of light and shadow. Through their darkened surfaces, contours dissolve and reemerge.

  • Left Leg (after A.G.), 2020, Epoxy clay and steel, Unique, 62 x 8 x 20 in. Pedestal: 26.5 x 32 x 32 in. Overall dimensions: 88.5 x 32 x 32 in.

The works evoke both stillness and the potential for movement, as though collapsing their before and after: a frog sits poised to leap from the top of a bald man’s head; a woman with limbs forever unfolding and retracting reclines in defiant introversion; and a felled bird lies suspended in its final scene.

  • Left Leg (after A.G.), 2020, Epoxy clay and steel, Unique, 62 x 8 x 20 in. Pedestal: 26.5 x 32 x 32 in. Overall dimensions: 88.5 x 32 x 32 in.

Johnson began each sculpture with a quick sketch cut from cardboard and held before a light source, casting a shadow, turning and contorting the silhouette to arrive at a desired shape. He then uses clay to build out the shadow’s shape into a three-dimensional sculpture.

  • Dear Shadow, installation view

The works maintain this attention to the contours the sculptures draw in space, and to the ways in which shadows abstract as stretched and distorted doubles.

  • The Gift, 2020, Epoxy clay and steel, Unique, 4 x 11 x 17 in. Pedestal: 32 x 2 x 21 in. Overall dimensions: 36 x 21 x 21 in.

In the way a shadow acts as an index of the object that casts it, Johnson’s forms become surrogates for states of being.

  • Wounded Bird, 2020, Epoxy clay and steel, Unique, 33 x 10 x 27 in. Pedestal: 20 x 28 x 28 in. Overall dimensions: 54 x 30.5 x 28 in.

As a group, the sculptures suggest the delicate crossing between ideas and material, reinforcing the notion that our state of mind models our impression of reality—that form remains stubbornly attached to feeling.

  • Tangled Figure, 2020, Epoxy clay and steel, Unique, 37 x 28 x 52 in. Pedestal: 24 x 42 x 42 in. Overall dimensions: 61 x 42 x 52 in.
  • Dear Shadow, installation view
Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson (b. 1978, Karachi, Pakistan) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute (2000) and an M.F.A from Columbia University (2003). Recent exhibitions include Marinaro, New York, NY (2023); Nemeth Art Center, Park Rapids, MN (2022); Nina Johnson, Miami, FL (2020); and has been exhibited at Sculpture Center, New York, NY (2015); Metropolitan Art Society, Beirut, Lebanon (2014); White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO (2013); Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’Art Contemporain, Luxembourg (2007); MoMA PS1, New York, NY (2005); The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI (2006); Artenova-Fuoriuso, Pescara, Italy (2006); and The Moore Space, Miami, FL (2004).