In recent decades, the contemporary art world has been obsessed with irony, but irony that is clinical and lacking in emotional impact is impotent. No such complaint applies here. Seemingly anticipating Pope Francis' recent critique of oligarchical capitalism, Ryman's deft interweaving of bullets, Indian arrowheads and slave chains with railroad spikes, spark plugs, pills, pull tabs, candy and consumer electronics paints a picture of progress that came at a price. Their arrangement, reminiscent of Louise Nevelson's obsessive monochromatic taxonomies of found objects, is initially seductive, a metaphor for the Old World view of America as a gleaming land of gold, but the details are chilling. The global sweatshops that now produce our clothes and electronic gadgets are modern versions of the exploited slaves and immigrants who built America, and if some complain that such critiques are insufficiently patriotic, emotionally healthy nations, like sane individuals, understand that acknowledging our history is how we grow and become wiser as a people. In that sense, Ryman's America is profoundly patriotic. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
America: Mixed Media Installation by Will Ryman, Ongoing, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100.
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