Marissa Textor and Ryan Travis Christian are not only long-time friends, but also share a serious love for graphite. Hailing from Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively, the pals recently flung open the doors of Toronto’s Cooper Cole gallery to present It Ain’t Conceptual, a selection of their latest work.
Textor’s painstakingly photorealistic graphite drawings depict forces of nature at their most ruthless and unsympathetic. Her exquisite, clinically objective renderings could almost pass for monochrome photographs. She’s not interested in drawing from her imagination—real life, she says, is much more interesting. In turn, photography has always gone hand-in-hand with her sketches. The images of explosions, oddly shaped foliage, rocks, animals, and water could have been taken yesterday or fifty years ago, imbuing them with a sense of timelessness and familiarity. A few slightly more abstract works adjust, layer, and distort images, marking a departure from the rest of her oeuvre.
Christian’s work mixes ’30s cartoons with ’80s design, evoking reactions ranging from humor to disgust. Vulgar at times, poignant at others, the 29-year-old’s psychedelic sketches are full of energy, explosions, jazz hands, manic patterns, and bulging eyes, focusing on conjuring a fractured, multidimensional depiction of time and space. His works on view have hints of a vintage Disney dream world, though Christian uses characters all his own to speak to the cultural politics of that era. When he’s not drawing, Christian curates exhibitions, DJs for Chicago’s Club Nutz, stages comedy and noise shows, and writes about fellow artists.