Monday, October 8, 2012

Visit and Re:Print: Elizabeth Herrmann and Ryan Shelley @ 620

Work by RAS+E
When Master Printer Erika Greenberg-Schneider of Bleu Acier [Link] recommends or praises anyone's work, I listen. What she said to me about Elizabeth Herrmann upon my arrival at 620, was more than enough to spike my attention.

I had first seen their work in a group show at C. Emerson Fine Arts.


print·ing  (prntng)
1. The art, process, or business of producing printed material by means of inked type and a printing press or by similar means.
a. The act of one that prints.
b. Matter that is printed.
3. All the copies of a publication, such as a book, that are printed at one time.
4. Written characters not connected to one another and resembling those appearing in print.

RAS (Ryan Shelley) +E(lizabeth Herrmann) are young, innovative artists-designers-educators. What makes them who they are is their constant questioning of prevalent ideology, practice and extant models. In spite of their ages, they have developed an extensive and rapidly evolving philosophy regarding design, art, technology, content, education and much more. They have parted ways with the ubiquitous slavishness to the latest technology & software that is the norm today.  Their approach is broader, conceptually daring, integrating Life with the work, and using whatever technology, new or old, they feel will actualize their ideas. The result is a highly individuated, brave vision, one that is relentlessly pushing itself in a substantive way, without defaulting into the all-too-common, obviously contrived visual drama/hype that dominates the content landscape.

Work by RAS+E
The full tryptich of wihch the middle image is shown above. RAS+E have an energy rarely seen in art, a pilot wave that is reminiscent in strength (and only in its strength) to that of Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. Their work, like all work that questions its own time is subversive as seen at left. They play with language, its forms, fonts etc in a very liberating way, showing that it, like so many things in our lives is plastic, and not cast in stone. It is ours to take and do as we will to express ourselves.

Work by RAS+E
Work by RAS+E
They're not misspelling anything, but modifyig the words like twins, close siblings, lovers, or cadres of subversives (and I am being redundant: lovers/intimates are subversives), inventing their own dialect, and eventually, perhaps their own language, one of the ultimate forms of intimacy. I took home one of those missiles. It's presently sitting upright on my table, as if ready to launch, until I hang it up, when it will appear to be en route with "RAS+E" on its fins. The war has begun.

They painted a Manifesto on one of the 620 walls. Actually, two of them, in overlays. I love manifestos, they are akin to snapshots of the artists' minds. Here, too RAS+E juggle and mold the language by titling it "Mani-Fester". (Click on image to enlarge). This one is a thinly undisguised Molotov Cocktail.

RAS+E, "Mani-Fester".

RAS+E, "Remorse"

 There were two clusters of framed multiples titled "Re Morse", with its multplicity of meanings. These are only part of the series, Ryan told me. On the left is a photo of one of the clusters. They used silkscreens, which they wrapped around each other's body and printed on their skins, which they then photographed. Here there are two computer languages, one for each gender. One is HTML (on Ryan), the other is CSS [Link] (on Elizabeth).

RAS+E "Re Morse"

Here the languages are themselves meta-phorical, part of this incestuous portrait of these collaborators. Sometimes you have to look twice to figure out who's who and I doubt that's by accident.

It is hard to overstate how inventive, playful, edgy, humanistic and grounded these works are. RAS+E's writings, art and ideas can at times seem overwhelming. Trust them and let them wash over you.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Herrmann and Ryan Shelley and Studio @ 620, for a very strong show, one of the highlights (and illuminated teachable moments) of 2012 in this community. Bravo.

--- Luis

PS. Erika was right.

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