The statement “I draw a lot.” is the first thing one sees on artist Ryan Otero Price’s social media.
If you’ve had the good fortune to see his work in person then you know what he means, and it’s an almost funny understatement. Price’s visual world spills over with ideas and observations with plenty of nods to nostalgia and pop culture. His handmade sketchbooks that are on display for his solo exhibit, A Distant Mirror, attest to this ten fold.
Like many artists in the early part of their career there’s a raw reflection of the times in which they live and Price is a product of the present. Leading it up this his muses are cartoons and video games, lunch box graphics, heavy metal music, with modern satire and cynicism peppered throughout telling stories that can be seen as folkloric depictions of the mass market digital age.
When the term folklore popped into my head during the viewing of the exhibit, between getting immersed in the work along with taking in the info from the personalized tour by Hollerbach’s Art Haus director Moriah Russo, my attention split as to how to describe what I was seeing and to translate it to the readers. When I was served a glass of wine it triggered an easy way to build a framework to describe Price’s work. A bit silly and obvious–wine tastings came to mind. Not my usual type of thing but if you’ve been to one you’ll know that there are the requisite gestures and statements like “I’m detecting citrus notes.” “It’s finish is smoky.” “This one has firm legs.” Descriptive remarks like that and such. It was exactly that type of approach that opened up the floodgates to ways of looking at the art. What am I seeing, and what context of place and time is it, or at least on a personal level? What was the imagination tasting?
Although their styles are far apart, when looking at Price’s work, I can't help but feel familiar thoughts of Marc Chagall. Not to use the term child-like, but there’s an earnest expressiveness that gives his work an innocent glow. A bravado and rhythm that’s only found in the efforts of youngsters not yet spoiled by self-awareness. Like Chagall, Price is a storyteller. His scenes depict a lot of action happening, be it realistic or fantastic. Chagall, known for his vivid depictions of folklore and his observations of the world around him, Price does also with a similar wildness. There’s a recurring motif of father and son that runs through that grounds his vivid visions with a down to earth heartfelt warmth. Love that’s unconditional. Which is one of the traits that makes Ryan’s art so special.
The work set my imagination alight to the point that I wanted to make sure justice was being served, so I got his words on the vision of his art: “A lot of the pieces in my show, A Distant Mirror, come from a practice of world building. I have over the course of my life so far consumed many “worlds” in various forms of media whether it be science fiction novels, comic books or video games. It’s always fascinating the vision one person’s mind is capable of through pure imagination and an understanding of the world that surrounds you. Many of these pieces fall into a genre of fantasy. I want to capture the viewer's imagination with a fantastical world filled with bizarre creatures and structures. It is my rebellion against the banal, clinical, and day to day boredom. I infused this with a comparative understanding of the history of art all the way back to cave paintings, the acid flash color of 90s cartoons, my own personal experience and feelings, and the making of my own mythologies.”
Brilliantly put, “...pure imagination and an understanding of the world that surrounds you.” Through the eyes of an artist this outlook makes for a vivid art going experience. With Price you see a restless creative mind thinking on his feet all the time with pen, paper, paint and whatever media he has at the ready. Which is why I urge anyone with even a glimmer of interest in the arts to check this exhibit out to see for yourself and maybe ask yourself the question, “Is Price a talent like Chagall?” For the time being it seems so. If he continues down the road he’s going with his work then it’s a most certain YES. It’s easy to see how viewers could turn into fans leaving them wanting more after each exhibit; his work speaks to a wide audience.
It should be noted that Hollerbach’s Art Haus concept in its inaugural year has made some real waves with the level of content it’s bringing. More than just putting pictures on a wall, it’s showcasing work that reflects the true voices that are coming out of our creative community.
Kyle Eagle is a producer, curator, broadcaster, and journalist living in Central Florida. Find more of his visual arts and music writing in the pages of the Orlando Weekly.