‘State of the Art’

Bryan McGinnis explores American history and politics with dual exhibit

As Converge Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., closes out another year of magnificent solo exhibitions, the Gallery is pleased to host a two-part exhibition by artist Bryan McGinnis titled “State of the Art,” now through Dec. 23.

This will be the last exhibition for Converge Gallery as they are undergoing the transition to a 501 c3 nonprofit art space and will be rebranding as Arthaus Projects Jan. 1.

“State of the Art” features two works from McGinnis, “Project President” and “Man Made.” The exhibition bonds both collections with emphasis on the identity of American president. Historic and American subject matters are frequently explored throughout his work, for it serves as a learning tool. The research is just as important and valuable to the art as the paint is to the canvas.

McGinnis hails from Levittown, commonly known as the first modern suburb of the United States. His interests in art came at a young age where he was then able to train his talents and pursue an education and lifestyle within the arts.

He studied at Lycoming College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in photography, as well as painting and drawing. He is currently a master’s candidate at American University for Studio Arts in Washington, D.C.

McGinnis is inspired primarily by American history and politics in creating his art. Mostly concentrating with historic American politics, he paints with respect and an objective to acquire the realistic American beginnings that were often sugarcoated in his public education. Many of his works center on American presidents. Various other presidents are finding themselves incorporated in his work as he expends outside of his comfort circle.

“I enjoy it most when I can add humor to my pieces,” he said. “I am currently working on an elaborate window display that will catch the eyes of on passers.”

McGinnis entered Converge Gallery’s first juried show with a photo sculptural, a four-part self-portrait that hung from the ceiling. McGinnis placed third in the show and from there, Converge Gallery director John Yogodzinski believed he could take a solo show further.

“I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity,” McGinnis said. “This will be my first solo show in a gallery outside of Lycoming College.”

“Bryan has been an absolute delight to work with,” Yogodzinski said. “The stories behind these presidential pieces are kind of interesting. The cut paper works stem from the realization that the average person could maybe name 10 or so presidents from the 45 presidents. Bryan is a historian and he even capped out around 13.”

McGinnis does not limit his mediums in his work, instead he diversifies his pieces with: acrylic paints, ink, photography, and ceramics. “State of the Art,” consists of two bodies of work.

The first, “Man Made,” is a series of ink blot-like paintings depicting late American icons such as John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The inkblot formations are arranged over densely textured fields of obscure rock-like shapes as well as gritty sand.

“The paintings are heavily textured with earthly materials,” McGinnis said. “The rough textures elude into a complex masculinity.”

The materials enhance a vision of complex masculine qualities, which serve to further build upon an appreciation of his own masculine identity.

McGinnis’ second body of work is a newer series of paper painting cutouts — a collection of U.S. Presidents titled “Project President.”

Each piece portrays a separate president using acrylic paint, paper, and a combination of negative and positive space. The paintings transform from abstract designs to geometric recognizable figures. The ramification of lines and deliberate pairings of layers are based on juxtaposition of colors and occasionally content. “Project President” is a playful interplay between solid and void spaces that delicately create a visual performance.

“Each piece is 2-4 layers of paintings that form a silhouette of a president,” McGinnis said. “With this series, I am playing with the idea of the celebrity status of the presidency.”

“Pictures do not do the works justice and you really have to see them in person,” Yogodzinski said. “For his more painterly textured works, they take on new perspectives or interpretations the closer you get to them.”

For McGinnis, “Project President” is a labor of love. While little technology is dependent for this series, the physical impact of cutting each line is extensive. However, the manual actions take you back to a time where tools were found in a box and not on a computer.

McGinnis’ pieces can be described as representational, conceptual, abstract and contemporary. He is able to tie together both ideological and personal beliefs and distort them in multi-layered conceptual pieces. The finished composition is playful in a sense that he enjoys approaching his work by accumulating mediums at the surface. His artistic style often differs in medium, yet stays conceptually historically based.

“I have a creative mind, so I am at my best when I am creating,” McGinnis said. “I feel whole when I am focused on making a new collection of work and most excited when I am able to show.”

McGinnis recently added a new piece to the show, in the window display at the gallery.

“I had woven together paper with wire in forms taken from the dollar bill,” he said. “The wire adds a detailed examination of how a ripped dollar bill would appear. The wire acts as the threads.”

McGinnis wanted to incorporate the sculpture piece as a thank you, as he was asked to do the show from a similar sculpture piece that placed third in Converge Gallery’s Selfie juried show a year ago. He also saw Washington’s identity as an abstract shape just as the paper painting cutouts are in the gallery.

“As I was dropping off my work it was emotional for me to be back in Williamsport and see former professors from Lycoming College,” he said. “Williamsport has a special place in my heart. There is so much love there, and to be showing at Converge means a great deal for my art and myself.”

For more information, visit www.convergegallery.com.