Michael x. Ryan is a Chicago based visual artist who creates drawings, mappings and wood relief’s that focus on patterns made or discovered while traveling places lived and visited. Ryan attempts to record the fleeting residue of the human presence by realizing the interconnectedness of bodies and places while magnifying the minutia of a life lived.
Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, he watched the hilly wooded area behind his house disappear into a flat barren empty lot which sat dormant for a number of years until rows of homes were built on winding roads of suburban comfort. Observing this change in landscape, from rural to sub/urban, helped form his interest in exploring the human mark within a landscape where layers of history are walked upon on a daily basis.
After graduating from Tyler School of Art in 1979 he spent the summer at Oxbow in Saugatuk, Michigan were he was reintroduced to studying and drawing a landscape connected to water forms. After visiting Chicago for a week, he landed a job working in the scene shop for the Goodman Theater and fell in love with the city that he has called home for 34 years.
Inspiration from day jobs has always been important to Ryan’s steady studio practice. The one year he spent at the Goodman Theater influenced a five-year series of work, which turned a landscape drawing into a series of imaginary stage sets. His work at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), as an Art Installer, Conservation Assistant and Preparator/Assistant to A. James Speyer influenced his first two exhibitions at Robbin Lockett Gallery in Chicago in the late 80’s. After six years at the AIC, he was hired on at the Chicago Historical Society where in working with many of their diverse collections he became aware of the importance of an objects life history. Since 1994, Ryan has been an Administrator and Adjunct Faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where the meeting of different generations of artists is a daily inspiration to the studio.
Michael x. Ryan’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States. His work has been acquired by a number of collections, such as The Art Institute of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, IL, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago (Artists book collection), American Medical Association, JP Morgan Chase and the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY.