September 26, 2019 - November 3, 2019
The title Somnambulist was inspired by the character Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, who commits murders during a perpetual state of sleep under the control of the hypnotist Caligari. The film, a landmark of German Expressionism, was written by two young men who served in WWI. It is both an allegory for the atrocities they witnessed as well as a strange foreshadowing of the horrors that would befall during WWII. The film’s consideration of dreams was a practice integral to the Surrealists at this time as Sigmund Freud became internationally known.
Bock has said that Somnambulist reflects the Surrealist tendency to “make functional items nonfunctional.” He further believes that our unprompted contact with Surrealism is activated solely during sleep, during which the meaning of recognizable objects falls into oblivion and is replaced with non-narrative and vaguely associative images. When we sleep, we enter a state of complete vulnerability, thus Bock questions whether or not we are in control over the activity of our subconscious. The works of Somnambulist constructed from pieces of everyday found objects that appear unnameable in final form still have a vague tether to the familiar.
A large portion of the exhibition is executed on bed frames Bock acquired during a transformative residency at Boyd’s Station in Kentucky. As a result, much of the subject-matter Bock renders is entirely new to his overall body of work: a surprisingly bucolic—if not quietly eerie—scene depicts the ancient practice of counting sheep. In experiencing both the metropolitan and rural sensibilities of the country, he highlights a disturbing social division reminiscent of the times leading up to WWII. The works, therefore, are the reification of the political duality Bock observed over the course of the show’s creation.
Although the concepts behind Somnambulist take root in the 1920s, Bock works within the context of a much more digitized, globally-connected world while hearkening from ancient mythology to stories of the supernatural. The breadth of this work spans humanity, invoking an emotionally and psychologically profound consideration of sleep.
Says the artist: “I’m here to report, not to provide anyone with a false, idealized version of the world. In terms of what I’m trying to communicate: I hope that it’s hopeful. I hope that there is hope.”
About Ryan Bock
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 Ground Effect (Paris), and has works in several prominent private and public collections.