Best in Flow

Published February 10, 2012

“My process begins with creating unstable and changing conditions on the canvas,” says Ryan Sullivan, the 28-year-old New York-based artist whose abstractions reveal just how much paint can do if left (mostly) to its own devices. Sullivan lays down a canvas and pours onto its surface successive layers of latex, oil, and enamel, all with various consistencies, formulas, and drying times, which converge and react chemically. He then picks up the canvas, turns it vertically, and lets the pigments yield to gravity—some move lazily, others hurry toward th edge. “While I’m painting, the surface is shifting, sometimes quickly and sometimes over the course of days,” Sullivan explains. Thick, folded, rippled, and cracked, the resulting compositions can approximate mottled skin, toppographical maps, or lustrous fabric. Each work is “characterized by having allowed a process to take on a life of its own,” says Sullivan, who, after gaining notice in several group shows, is finally about to get a solo show of his own at Maccarone Gallery in New York, from February 10 through March 17.