3 year old Jeffrey Ryerson and his grandfather Bjorgulf
35 year old Jeffrey Ryerson in ROME Studio
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
"Ryerson who has had his work displayed in major exhibitions in Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Sydney, Australia describes his art as primitive yet contemporary. These images demonstrate his need for variety, sometimes being whimsical, other times complex or serene. Ryerson admits that he always seems to be stimulated by looking at things in a new way (painting under totally new conditions)."
The Tampa Tribune
"A prolific artist with international acclaim, Ryerson counts 4,000 completed works comprised of paintings, constructions and totems which have been displayed around the globe over the last 35 years. From Boston to Palm Springs' Desert Museum, Chicago to Tokyo by way of Australia, his art is everywhere. This accomplishment is no small feat, buy rather a lifetime commitment to his craft. The sheer power of his colors, figures and symbols draw your eyes from one visual feast to the next."
Tampa Bay Magazine
"Ryerson's work shows several diverse paths in which his art has evolved through the years: the first geometric, with large areas of scrubbed color reminiscent of the geometry of farmland viewed from above. Another is his amorphous, large paintings textured with sand and found objects like arial views of the beach. "
Elsa Honig Fine, The Washington Post, and editor of Women's Art Journal
I saw the painting (The Marathon) across the room and was awe struck. As I ventured closer, I thought perhaps it was by the famed artist Lester Johnson. Johnson was noted as figurative expressionist and a second generation of the New York School. And like Johnson, Jeffrey Russell Ryerson in this painting, lent vigor and force to his human heads. The painting is so crowded with stylized men in a frieze like arrangement that the figures expand to the edges and make the men appear to be compressed into a small space. Unlike Johnson, Ryerson uses bright colors in this painting; pinks, reds, and white on a muted mauve blue background. The painting consists of watercolor and thick gouache on paper.
The painting’s linear silhouettes of men come across in a turbulent fashion appearing in a confused mass. The brush strokes used by Ryerson become a skein of lines that outline the interwoven faces. Perhaps they are Jesus’ apostles gathered after the ascension or a crowded subway scene. We are not sure, but we do know that the colors are bright and yet the overall scene still has a brooding somber quality, which provides an interesting contrast.
A visit to Ryerson’s website demonstrates that his current work has many of the same elements as when he had his Tampa studio in the 1990's. He is still working in an expressionist style, and with his acrylic paintings, he’s layering his gestural brushstrokes.
Ryerson was born on May 29, 1953. After graduating from high school, he went off to get his BFA at University of Tennessee. There he studied under art professor Walter Stevens who served as coach and mentor. He went on to get his MFA at the University of South Florida that were complemented with independent studies in Holland, Germany and Austria. He taught art at the University of South Florida and at Hillsborough Community College. He did not get tenure, which is not surprising, tenure is a highly political process and many art professors get torn between creating/teaching and the wild world of higher education politics. The lack of tenure sent him off to create galleries, which is what a true artist should do.
In the 90's, Ryerson had a large Tampa gallery and was represented by the Alamo Art Gallery, San Antonio. He is a lifetime member of the American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society and exhibited extensively across the country as well as in Japan and Australia.
The Tampa Bay Magazine in a 1995 edition stated the following: "A prolific artist with international acclaim, Ryerson counts 4,000 completed works comprised of paintings, constructions and totems which have been displayed around the globe over the last 35 years. From Boston to Palm Springs' Desert Museum, Chicago to Tokyo by way of Australia, his art is everywhere. This accomplishment is no small feat, by rather a lifetime commitment to his craft. The sheer power of his colors, figures and symbols draw your eyes from one visual feast to the next."
Ryerson frequently now uses his artistic skills to raise money for philanthropic need, which provides him great pride. His good works might get him into heaven, but it was his art that stopped me in my tracks. My comparison between Lester Johnson, an artist listed, documented, and illustrated in numerous coffee table books and Ryerson, points out the similarities of inventiveness and illustrative power through expressionism.
I am not saying that all of Ryerson’s work can be compared to Johnson, clearly it is his linear expressionist paintings that match up. To my art critic readers, I hope you can appreciate the analysis and the comparisons (do your own Google search to look at Lester Johnson’s work). Finally, it is my wish that like Johnson, Ryerson will get several blockbusting retrospectives in his later years, the chance to be recognized for his broad artistic scope and be fully celebrated by the art museum establishment.
Tony Waller, Falls Church, VA