Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Visual Arts 2011

Ryan McNamara

Three triangle shaped portraits of Ryan McNamara pieced together. On the left, he is pictured wearing a grey hood and navy parka and stands in front of a blurred red brick building. In the middle, he is pictured in front of a blurred street wearing a grey suit, lavendar shirt, and a black and white bowtie. On the right, he is pictured in front of red brick columns wears a grey t-shirt. On the bottom, yellow text reads: "And introducing Ryan Mc Namara"
Photo by David Velasco.
  • 2011 Grants to Artists
  • Visual Arts
  • Artist
  • Born Phoenix, AZ, 1979
  • Lives in Brooklyn, NY
  • Additional Information

This level of activity would not have been possible without the support of the Foundation for Contemporary Art. While some of the hosting institutions covered production costs or, in rare occasions, provided an artist fee, this amount of money comes nowhere near covering my living expenses. New York is cost prohibitive for an artist, but I love this city for giving me opportunities to show my work and to see other performances that change the way I think about my art. The generosity of founder Jasper Johns and all the FCA donors not only provided me the freedom to push my practice further, but also gives me a sense of validation that comes from respected members of my field believing in me.

- Ryan McNamara, January 2012

Artist Statement

A discussion of my artistic concerns is probably best done in person. If interested, please contact me at ryan@ryanmcnamara.comso we can schedule a conversation.

- December 2010


Ryan McNamara is a Brooklyn based artist who is known for blending different practices of dance, theater, and history in his work. His works are often situation-specific, and tend to be collaborative or participatory.

In 2010, as part of MoMA PS1's Greater New York survey, the artist performed Make Ryan a Dancer, in which he took public dance lessons and practiced in spaces around the museum. After, he taught museum visitors what he learned, challenging the teacher-student/performer-spectator relationship. In an FCA-supported solo exhibition and performance, Still (2012), the audience became performers. McNamara told visitors to pose for photos in costumes and to reenact stills from performances. The photos were cut and pasted onto backdrops, costumes, and objects in the second phase of the exhibition.

McNamara has held performances and exhibitions at The Kitchen, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, The Watermill Performance Center, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Lehmann Maupin, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; and The Museum of Modern Art. His work is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

Prior to his 2011 Grants to Artists, McNamara received a 2010 Art Matters Travel Grant. He received a B.F.A. from Arizona State University (2002).

Collage of different sized technicolor cut-out figures performing various expressions and actions against a brick wall background where across the center the word
FCA-supported Untitled (Bricks), 2012, canvas, backdrop, performance stills, glue, 119" x 88". Courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.
Installation view of a circular arch pasted with collaged technicolor human figures performing various actions against a light gray geometric background. Covering the surrounding walls are large canvases hosting collaged and juxtaposed colorful figures and shapes.
FCA-supported exhibition Still, 2012, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.
A person wearing black pumps, a sheer black skirt, and a tan drape top speaks on the phone while leaning against a white wall displaying five small framed images.
Still from McNamara's FCA-supported work in the exhibition Jack Smith: Thanks for Explaining Me, 2011, Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Close-up of a metallic blue crushed plastic and foam Debit, VISA card.
FCA-supported Card Ending in 5589, 2011, color photograph, portrait of the artist's debit card rendered in a sheet cake, 20" x 30," Art Basel VIP Opening, Miami Beach. Photograph by Benedetta Pignatelli.
Two heads with microphones placed at their chins poke out of a forest floor of dried pineneedles and sticks while behind them figures walk through a sun-dappled forest.
FCA-supported II, Watermill Performance Center, 2011.
Two bench rows of people watch as two persons face off in a staring contest moderated by a suited person kneeling and holding a microphone.
FCA-supported Marina Abramovic Staring Contest, the Museum of Modern Art atrium, New York, NY, 2011.
Flash photograph of a person in a cobalt blue minidress and two persons in suits holding up glasses of champagne and smiling in a room of people mingling.
Performance still titled Ryan McNamara, standing stock-still in the midst of the cocktails, with his eyes bugged out and fingers crooked like a B-movie ghoul, as part of the FCA-supported performance project This Charming Man, 2011.
Trains, Boats, and Planes, 2009, digital video, dimensions variable, 5:00 minutes. Shown in On Shuffle exhibition at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 2011.