woman in studio
Art

Ryan Cosbert Paints a New Portrait of History

Brooklyn-born artist Ryan Cosbert grew up with a pile of sketchbooks. The School of Visual Arts (SVA) alumnus, who, in 2021, graduated from the same alma mater as her mother had, spent her youth traveling between New York and Virginia Beach, Virginia, honing her craft throughout. Ask her about her work before attending SVA, and she’ll explain it was “semi-developed.” In school, she experimented with silkscreen and block printing, photography and drawing, only committing to the pursuit of abstract painting her sophomore year. She began to research Sam Gilliam and Jack Whitten, Norman Lewis and Alma Thomas, Pat Steir and Anne Truitt and Ed Clark—scouring art books, playing and replaying every video she could find on YouTube. In the few months that have passed since graduation, Cosbert has developed a ritual: spending the bulk of her time in the studio, finding her voice, and developing her now-signature style. The artist relies on a grid or “tiled” format designed to evenly distribute the texture of her canvases, providing crucial organization and infusing each piece with a geometric complexity that not only adds dimension to the work in question, but pays homage to her childhood home: Cosbert’s mother laid tiles on their kitchen floor, in the bathrooms and on walls, inspiring the artist to use them materially in every piece.

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