Ryan McCann played quarterback for the UCLA Bruins before signing a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. But then his career fizzled out after a shoulder injury. He's been torching the art world ever since.
While football season is still months away and some of his former teammates swelter during two-a-day drills, McCann is poised to make his Wynwood debut during this weekend's Second Saturday Art Walk at the Black Square Gallery (2248 NW First Pl., Miami) in a group show dedicated to text-based art.
Titled "Summer Reading," the exhibit also features works by Italy's Patrizia Giambi, Argentina's Pablo Lehmann, South Korea's Kyu Hak Lee, and Miami's own Tony Vazquez.
"A friend recommended McCann's work to me last year, and we have been planning a solo for him in the gallery," says Anna Milashevych, the gallery's director.
McCann has created a technique he calls "pyrography," for which he uses a blowtorch to burn images into wood and then layers text over it, creating ambiguous strikes against pop culture while parsing sociopolitical themes. "My parents are very creative and influenced me," McCann mentions. "My dad is an actor, and my mom dabbled in pottery, painting, and photography, so I took art classes when I was in high school. But when I got a full scholarship to play football at UCLA, the art classes the school offered conflicted with football practice, so I ended up majoring in history instead."
Ironically, an injury set his new path. "I was back at home with my parents and with my left arm in a sling trying to figure out what to do next," McCann recollects. "My mother told me to get some of her paints out of the garage, and I started to draw and paint some surrealist stuff. But in 2007 I was living with a roommate and sitting at his wooden IKEA desk that had a small blowtorch lighter on it. I took the lighter and burned my name into the wood, and liked the way it looked.
"I ripped the legs off the desk and bought a new one for my roommate. Then I made my first blowtorch painting on the original desk. There is no book at an art store that shows you how to use a blowtorch to create art, so I have had to make it up as I have gone along. So far it has worked."
At Black Square, McCann is presenting a portrait of Bill Clinton as the Quaker Oats Man and an image of Abraham Lincoln with the words You Don't Get to Free the Slaves Without Making a Few Enemies blanketing his face.
"Ryan is a very intelligent artist with an unusual technique and is very witty with his approach," Milashevych says. "He has become very famous in Los Angeles suddenly, and he will be here for the gallery walk."
Also standing out at Black Square is Lee's landscape-like wall installation using rolled newspapers and Vazquez's collages on canvas created from pages torn from art magazines. Call 305-424-5002 or visit blacksquaregallery.com.
Other big draws during this month's sizzling edition of Second Saturday, which begins at 6 p.m., are two group showcases, one of pop legends and another of major mid-20th-century masters of geometric abstraction.
Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art (2239 NW Second Ave., Miami) unveils an arsenal of works by the likes of Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Tom Wesselmann, including ten by Andy Warhol and five by Roy Lichtenstein, among a collection of other blue-chip names not found amassed under one roof anywhere else in town.
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On display is the iconic diamond-dust-infused screen print The Witch from Warhol's 1981 series Myths and Lichtenstein's 1989 lithograph Brushstroke Contest. Call 305-205-9089 or visit gsfineart.com.
It's the type of commercial summer show featuring secondary-market works recently cropping up in Wynwood and designed with an eye to pay the bills, but well worth a gander.
Toeing the same line is O. Ascanio Gallery (2600 NW Second Ave., Miami). "Summer Collectibles" boasts European and South American talent known for geometric, op art, and kinetic works created with distinct mathematical precision. Some of the works on view are by Carlos Cruz-Diez, Victor Vasarely, Jesus Raphael Soto, and Victor Lucena.
"These are artists whose primary concerns were exploring space and geometry with mathematical exactitude to convey a sense of pure and subtle beauty," says gallery owner Oscar Ascanio. "For example, we will be exhibiting a piece by Lucena, a Venezuelan artist who lives in Italy and has represented his homeland at the Venice Biennale. It's an incredible work from his Shock Series, in which he fastidiously slices exact incisions into copper laminates that are remarkable." Call 305-571-9036 or visit oascaniogallery.com.