I'm Not Funded by the CIA
Ryan Bock

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On view:

197 E 4th St: May 13 - June 24

311 E 3rd St: May 27 - June 24

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.