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I'm Not Funded by the CIA
Ryan Bock

197 E 4th St: May 13, 2022 - June 24, 2022

311 E 3rd St: May 27, 2022 - June 24, 2022

During the two-year production period of this body of work, I considered the value of art beyond capital. 

I struggled to justify my continued participation in the art market in the face of so much mounting pain and struggle in the world, as it became increasingly known by me. What power of real truth and change could art sway over its viewers if presented as mere commodity? 


I began thinking about the pivotal role the CIA played in establishing Abstract Expressionism’s international fame during the Cold War. Governments have a long history of meddling in cultural affairs. With help from major institutional players, the United States leveraged the work of the movement to flex a national muscle and to move the public eye away from, for example, Black artists creating socially-engaged work relating to the civil rights movement. 


The propaganda machine is time-tested and well-oiled. To combat it, we must mount defenses against it where it stands and meet it head to head. We must beat it at its own game. Artistic resistance, via routes like counterculture and protest, is the power governments fear, covet, and ultimately seek to usurp. Independent artists have an obligation to constantly reclaim their language and original intent of creation. To face the machine with moral strength, to uphold freedom and truth against a shadowy culture war. 


I’ve been studying Dadaist theory and the movement’s strong opposition to war following WWI. To compose this body of work, I’ve taken into consideration the movement’s playful strategies and a meshing of critical theory between its great number of artistic mediums.


The fragmented figures and historical moments that previously populated my work are gone. What tethers me to my practice now is the absurd, physical act of painting. I painstakingly carve shapes’ edges by hand, when a much more efficient, digital, solution could achieve the same effects and with much more perfection. I do this to find the essential qualities inherent to my work. I embrace my own skepticism of art’s purpose and place within a system collapsing in on itself. The exhibition’s title, I’m not funded by the CIA, is not only a statement about my funding, but an oath for my future career. It’s my creative call to arms. 

Ryan Bock (b.1989, San Francisco)

Ryan Bock is an American artist who lives and works in New York City. Ryan Bock specializes in painting, drawing, puppetry, animation and experimental film methods. Bock’s practice is rooted in a need for narrative structure. Residing somewhere between mythology and nightmare, Bock depicts mise-en-scène riddled with symbology and allusions both cinematic and painterly. Maintaining a fascination for shape, shade, shadow, structure and optical illusion, Bock deconstructs his subject matter into often barely-recognizable delineations and structurally unsound repetitive patterns. In an attempt to confront the contemporary individual’s relationship to mortality, fear and superstition, Bock depicts correlations between the human figure and its innovations: technology, architecture and religion—both historically and fictitiously. By consistently contrasting historical subjects with those of the present, and using the recurring patterns found to generate predictions about our future—a process he refers to as ‘dusty futurism’—Bock propels his audience to reconsider the routine human experience and discloses the illusions implemented to keep them from questioning.

Since receiving his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bock has shown at numerous galleries both nationally––New York, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, and Oakland––and internationally in Paris, London, and Prague, including seven solo exhibitions. His work has also been featured in group exhibitions at Christie’s New York and the Honolulu Museum of Art. During his time with Apostrophe NYC’s Base 12 Project, he participated in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, Coney Island’s Luna Park, Mana Contemporary, and the MTA’s Kosciuszko Street J train Station. In 2019, Bock’s installation at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, and subsequent solo exhibition ​Somnambulist​ were featured by Hi-Fructose​ Magazine, ​ARTnews​, ​Observer​, and ​artnet News.​ He currently shows with Ki Smith Gallery, and has works in several prominent private and public collections.

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