In 2006, Londoner Ryan Callanan was already four years out of art school, his studies in model making and 3D design applied to making signage primarily for local pubs. Then, one night after work, he decided to begin creating screenprint experiments using his own original designs. With his creative and often humorous concepts quickly garnering him attention, Callanan was able to rapidly build the reputation of his RYCA alias, though it didn’t take long for him to begin branching out into various other mediums. And that brings us to his FUTURETRO solo exhibition at the Clutter Gallery, an unofficial retrospective of the artist’s last several years worth of non-print work. Not only including some of the artist’s “pressure painting” pieces, made using a process Callanan’s employed since 2012 of heating real vintage toys and encapsulating the flattened result in clear plastic, FUTURETRO also showcases the variety of his sculptural creations, which manifest as carded action figure-like forms as well as wall-mounted and free-standing works. Prepare yourself to enter the diverse, creative world of Ryan Callanan’s RYCA guise.

The 9 Holy Grails in a Row series

Back in 2012, Callanan created an installation of forty action figures, each cast in resin and hand-painted by him. For this display, he used the informally titled Blue Snaggletooth from Kenner‘s original Star Wars line, an exceptionally rare piece that was available exclusively in 1978 from Sears as part of the Cantina Adventure Set as well as the Greedo/Snaggletooth two-pack. Revisiting this character and a similar concept, Callanan created a series of four 9 Holy Grails in a Row pieces, each placing nine nearly identical, hand-painted resin “bootlegs” of rare and/or desirable Star Wars action figures on aluminum backings that had been decorated by the artist. A tribute to collector Thorsten Lafos’ Instagram account, @9holygrailsinarow, these serial art constructions also included depictions of the yellow-skinned alien Amanaman with his skull-adorned staff, the appropriately named Yak Face, and the original Jawa in his vinyl cape as opposed to the later cloth one. While most of Callanan’s other action figure forms on display reveal his immaculate sculpting skills, this arrangement proves conceptually interesting, the artist reclaiming the mass produced and reforming it as the handmade.

The Crucified Trooper pieces

Also known under the title Long Suffering Trooper, these crucified stormtrooper renditions represent Callanan’s most recent interpretations of his first resin art toy from 2008. In that initial form, which was carded similarly to an action figure, the Star Wars character was situated in the same pose but the cross shape was created by implication through the packaging. When the artist devised this new version in 2014, he carefully assembled the cross shape out of “famous spaceship parts”, adding a further textural appeal to the wall-hanging piece. While a cursory examination may give the impression that this piece is mocking Christianity, it simply uses the symbolism inherent to the crucifixion to relay its own message. As for the potential intent of this design, one could interpret it to signify how the stormtroopers, who die in the films by the multitudes, are sacrificed for the sins (or poor judgment) of their lord, whether it be Darth Vader or Kylo Ren.

The Rap Heads sets

With each piece hand-painted in a unique coloration, Callanan’s exquisitely rendered Rap Heads sets are comprised of three notable hip-hop star busts, specifically Eazy-E, Biggie, and Tupac. Meticulously crafted to mimic a near life-like appearance, these represent a trend revealed throughout the exhibition: almost all of the hip-hop inspired pieces displayed are, while rendered beautifully, done with an overt amount of respect and reverence, to the point that they lose Callanan’s voice. And that is a true shame, given that he’s an artist known for recontextualizing pop culture properties, merging them into conceptual creations which take the familiar and make them speak in a way that is uniquely Callanan’s own.

A Photo Overview of RYCA’s FUTURETRO Solo Exhibition

Having had its opening reception on Saturday, April 14th from 6-9pm, all works in this exhibition will remain on display until May 4th, 2018 at the gallery’s physical location (163 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the exhibition

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