13FOREST Gallery is pleased to present Fascination Street, an exhibition of new paintings by Mike Ryczek.
Fascination Street, Ryczek’s first solo exhibition, introduces a body of work that synthesizes his experience of visiting Seoul, South Korea in 2016. Through his distinctive blend of realism and surrealism, Ryczek compellingly presents the experience of traveling to an unfamiliar country, being overwhelmed by new sights and sensations, and distilling coherent memories from it all.
The impetus behind Ryczek’s 10-day trip, his first outside the United States, was his partner’s participation in a gathering of Korean adoptees in Seoul, which included her. Prior to their trip, they had had little knowledge of Korean culture, which inspired them to immerse themselves in learning about her country of origin. In Seoul Ryczek and his partner created a visual record of a new culture and their impressions of it by photographing the city and its residents.
For this series of paintings Ryczek used their photographs as an initial source of imagery. While working on it, however, he also continued learning about Korean history, which enabled him to incorporate new concepts into his work. The final paintings merge a collage of glimpses into everyday life in Seoul with the painter’s attempt to understand another culture more thoroughly. For the painting Decline and Fall, Ryczek began with an unintentional snapshot of a worker taking a smoke break, using the lone figure in an over-stimulating setting to convey the stress of Seoul’s workaholic culture. In Minjok, Ryczek takes on the iconic image of a lotus flower, which he had found floating in a pond in a Korean palace. The meditative composition expands upon the well-established symbolism of the flower to examine minjok, a Korean concept of national identity that is both divisive and unifying.
Fascination Street concludes three years of study, imagining and revising by Ryczek. Here he has created a striking and visceral series of paintings that touch upon the experience and memory of foreign travel, which may be familiar to many. In Ryczek’s case, however, it also encapsulates his overwhelming experience of observing another culture as an outsider and leaving it with a desire to know more.
FASCINATION STREET, January 18 – March 13, 2020. On view at 13FOREST Gallery, located at 167A Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474.