Danger is my Maiden Name is the solo debut for an Oakland-born artist Ryan Travis Christian, whose surreal graphite creations will be on display in the upcoming exhibition with Ross+Kramer gallery this September. We loved his work in our latest Juxtapoz Black & White book, so we’re keen on getting a peek inside his studio.
Over the years, Ryan Travis Christian has developed an unmistakable visual language based on vintage political cartoons and hand-drawn animation which he deftly mixes with familiar characters, surreal scenarios, sfumato-esque landscapes, and abstract elements. “To me, that classic animation style is just the most visually appealing thing I’ve ever come across, and I wanted to use it as both a tool in image-making and, via that, as a way to preserve that aesthetic. The stark contrasts, the hazy atmosphere, the way everything moves; it’s all cheery yet ominous, majorly psychedelic and easily approachable, but with massive potential for weirdness.” Referred to as “rubber hose,” his work stacks dense layers of graphite pencil to form graphic images featuring everything from Mickey Mouse over amorphous characters to abstract and psychedelic patterns. “Simply put, I spend way too much time gently tickling the same area of an image until it’s very smooth. It can get pretty boring to do, but the end result is sexy.”
For the latest showcase at Ross+Kramer NYC, Christian unveils a fresh body of work made during the past six months, culminating in thirty-four new pieces, admitting, “I produced a lot more than that, there was some pretty heavy editing.” Dominated by small-size drawings, fueled by the absurdity of life in a small, suburban-Chicago hometown, he visits recurrent political themes, self-medication, nature, destruction, sexuality, fear, and groupthink. Two of the biggest pieces in the show, 30 x 45 in TOMTOM CLUB and .44EYES, feature Tom the cat, who appears frequently. “Seeing the same characters here and there starts to create a world. When you see a cast interacting within their environment, they begin to develop personalities, and there’s a sort of narrative that starts to appear as well. I try to keep everything very active, but also vague. This way, I can talk about what I want to talk about, while creating a healthy dose of mystery for the viewers.” Extending this concept even further, the artist recently teamed up with Case Studyo for an upcoming limited-edition release featuring the iconic feline character. –Sasha Bogojev
Photo credit by the artist