Chicago

Michael Ryan

Robbin Lockett Gallery

Michael Ryan’s paintings and drawings of mulberry trees or catalpa branches are less about their titular subjects than about the artist’s obsessive rituals of image-making. Ryan draws trees as if he’d just thought them up, and his arduously calibrated renderings have the feel of architect’s plans—blueprints for an enchanted forest.

Ryan’s use of trees as a subject approaches fixation. He has been making images of gnarled trunks and twisted limbs for almost seven years, at first in pen and ink on sheets of translucent vellum, and more recently by routing pieces of plywood. The 11 works shown here—a suite of four darkly stained plywood panels, and seven graphite-on-vellum drawings reveal the processes of their making as the object of Ryan’s art.

Mulberry Tree #1, 1985–87, is the common title for the four large painted plywood works. In each of these, a tree trunk has been rendered from one of

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