Ryan Mrozowski

Ryan Mrozowski Interview - By Steven Cox

HUNTED PROJECTS presents the work of Ryan Mrozowski, a Brooklyn based artist represented by PIEROGI Gallery in Williamsburg, New York.  His third, and most recent solo exhibition with PIEROGI showcased a new body of work that explored the notion of the double.  Such diverse works by Mrozowski embody collage, video, drawing, painting and found paper objects, all of which dabble with the double through layering, diptychs and the doppelgänger.

HUNTED PROJECTS has been developing an interesting dialogue with Ryan Mrozowski and it is with great excitement that we can now present to you such a thorough discussion with the artist.  HUNTED PROJECTS explored his interest with contemporary painter's painting, studio routines and his views on creative failure.  In all, this well rounded interview explores two sides of the artists practice - from the perspective of the exhibition space, as well as the working environment of his studio.  


Can you tell HUNTED PROJECTS about yourself and creative background?

RM: I grew up in a very rural part of Pennsylvania here in the United States.  I moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2003 to pursue an MFA at Pratt Institute and have lived here ever since.

Your most recent exhibition A Mouth That Might Sing is you’re most materially diverse to date.  Paintings are hung alongside pencil drawings, illuminated collages and video where the subject of the double is explored through layering, diptychs and the doppelganger.  Can you tell us about your interest with the double and how this became a central point for exploration?

RM: While my studio practice is very much rooted in the traditional paint on canvas act of painting, I am also always searching for the right container for my various ideas.  This means shifting the materials and/or the process often.  I think that this most recent exhibition is an accurate snapshot of what has been happening in my studio over the past few years, tangents running off in different directions and using disparate materials to rephrase the ideas behind the work.

The central figures in this exhibition were these illuminated book page sculptures that act as sort of instant or readymade collages.  Taking a single page from a book that happens to have images printed on both sides and putting a light source behind it sometimes creates a third image.  These pages that I've been collecting for several years really affected the way I work.  They are instantly resolved, they exist in the world and are completed by my curation of them from the shelves of bookstores.  This work happens in an instant, which is at odds with the slow process of working on a single painting for a month at a time.  The collapsing of space that happens with these sculptures reminded me of a digital space, something I had previously touched upon in certain paintings.  Seeing an idea play out over different pieces using different methods is interesting to me, the way a sentence can be recorded and shifted and rebuilt. The works in my studio have become much like words to be shuffled and paired, etc. The layering of images, collapsing two sides into one, etc. grew outwardly into many of the works from this show.

Decontextualizing your source material isolates the image from its reference so the viewer disposes of any possible entry points into the work. Can you discuss this, as its evident that you are heavily interested in manipulating the meaning of your source material?  What processes do you explore whilst searching for material and in the studio environment...

RM: A Mouth That Might Sing, the title of this most recent show, kind of touches upon this suggestion of potential action or meaning.  I am a representational painter for the most part.  My work traffics in imagery, is anchored and burdened by it.  I find that the images that have the most use to me are ones where I can scrape away some of the original content in order to allow other possible suggestions to take hold.  I often think of it as handling a bar of soap, wearing down the form a bit.  I find most of my source material in bookstores, often looking for specific kinds of images.  In my sketchbook are hundreds of words that are evocative to me for many reasons.  I might go searching for images of shipwrecks for example, and usually this leads to more interesting places and ideas.  The imagery I end up employing is usually secondary to a feeling I am trying to get at or a question I am trying to ask.

Do you find that this process begins in a similar manner to that of a fleeting thought that can quickly become marginalized by not necessarily be able to find the ‘correct’ image or do you become naturally more fascinated by the unexpected surprise?

RM: I try to be invested in art making as a process of examination, holding things up and turning them over, whether they are ideas or materials or images.  A "fleeting idea" creates a wonderful image itself, an answer or resolution becoming fugitive and refusing the sit still.  I like that.  I think I am most interested in the "searching" or "asking" part of studio work.  The images I use and to some degree the resulting work is an example rather than the end or answer.

The term Palimpsest refers to the re-writing or reusing of an original piece of material, with original elements being still visible.  With this in mind, your video work Palimpsest consists of video material sourced from the Night of The Living Dead.  I am interested in how this work was explored from the outset and how you feel about this particular piece of work owing a sense of origin?

RM: Well, this is a difficult piece to describe, but is a perfect example of the circuitous way I tend to work.  I had made another video piece in which I excised moving images and collaged them together to create a new narrative, and as part of this process I began to wonder how the inverse could be used, removing things rather than adding/collaging. I created a number of works on paper, collaged studies, thinking about the ply of the paper and how the video "surface" could be similar. The footage in the piece depicts a woman searching an empty farmhouse, walking furtively from room to room.  I looped the scene so that she is constantly searching, always circling back.  This led to the desire to create an actual circle or loop, by removing the figure and layering the same scene played in reverse behind the removed section. This makes the figure pass through itself in the middle of each scene over and over.

In terms of source material, often the things I use reveal my everyday interests in some way.  In this case, I grew up watching Night of the Living Dead.  It was filmed near where I grew up and so it has always been close at hand in suggesting a starting point for my work.

In a recent interview you did for BOMB Blog, you mentioned that painters’ painting is of most interest to you.  Can you expand on what it is about the non-conforming approach to painting that appeals to you and how this approach translates within your work?

RM: I think that there are many contradictions in my work; like most people, my interests shift and change, sometimes daily.  However, painting, with all of its history and baggage, has always captivated me.  I'm most interested in approaching painting and art as honestly as possible, which for me means scratching my head a lot.

Could you tell us about some of the difficulties that you encounter within your studio and how you turn these points into periods for reflection?

RM: Much of my days in the studio look and feel pretty unproductive on the surface.  I pace, drink coffee, shuffle through music playlists, flip through art books.  I play the same games as many fellow artists, making small moves and scrutinizing them. Letting paint dry.  Yet somehow things emerge from this process.  It's still mysterious to me and I hope it stays that way.  Sometimes I will spend the entire day pulling my hair out over a piece that I just can't resolve, reworking and reworking, only to find that I made something new and more interesting on another table while taking a coffee break.

At what point do you feel that a work of art can be deemed a failed work?

RM: I tend to bail a lot of water out of my little boat, painting over things and throwing ideas away.  If I were a writer I would spend most of the time editing my words, looking for just the right combination. "Failure" is a funny word because it means to come up short, or be incomplete, which is precisely what I am interested in creating at times.

Can you discuss some of your influences over the years and how they have had an impact upon your practice?

RM: The Met Museum here in NY is maybe my favorite place.  I love looking at art in general, but in terms of influence, I find that whatever I'm reading tends to really creep into my work.  Don DeLillo's White Noise was really inspiring for me in college and has always held up.  David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and even The Pale King were pretty important to me.  Samuel Beckett, Wallace Stevens and HG Wells too.  You could ask the same question tomorrow and get different answers.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment that you would like to discuss?

RM: Right now in my studio I am working on paintings of plants and flowers, a video piece using a scene from the 1988 comedy The Naked Gun, and some drawings of parrots.