Beautifully Intricate Work of Josh Dorman in the Exhibition ‘Idyll ~ Idol’ to Open at Ryan Lee Gallery in January




Josh Dorman, Golden Fables, 2022. © Josh Dorman; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

RYAN LEE is pleased to announce Josh Dorman: Idyll ~ Idol a solo exhibition of recent works which are an investigation of the artist’s longstanding interest in creating multi-layered and self-contained universes of antique collage material, acrylic and resin. Dorman’s two new bodies of work, the Being series and the Wallpaper series, take a new approach to the allegorical world building for which he is known. Opening January 5, 2023.

 To create his complex and visually rich paintings, Dorman culls old textbooks, maps, diagrams, and, for the first time, introduces antique wallpaper to his compositions. By starting off with a base of material from another time, Dorman dislocates the physicality of his paintings from our contemporary era and creates an ethereal, almost other-wordly dimension, which often serve as allegories addressing contemporaneous issues. The initial collage of archival material — some over one hundred years old — gives the artist a visual noise to react to: “It’s like gathering a pile of stuff then excavating the image from within” the artist explains. Dorman’s delicate and time-intensive process involves successive layering of collage, acrylic and ink, at times pouring resin or sanding down his surfaces, sealing in or obliterating the previous layers. 

Josh Dorman, The Olden Days, 2020. © Josh Dorman; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

 Neither portraits nor landscapes, the paintings in Dorman’s recent Being series, on view at RYAN LEE, are subjects in and of themselves. With his endlessly intricate, multi-layered compositions, Dorman brings to “flesh” a being with each of his paintings. “Each Being looks back at us, with many sets of eyes, through the air of their own dreams,” Dorman explains. “We feel their presence and wonder about our own. Each porous, without boundary. Assembled of eyes and visions, ears and sounds, brains and minds, teeth, and voices. We are memories, calculations, histories, cells, roots, beauty, fear, love, and joy. The paintings are assembled, found, constructed, and excavated, evolving in layers over months and years.” 

Josh Dorman, Being (Needlework), 2022. © Josh Dorman; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

 The paintings in Dorman’s Wallpaper series—which he refers to as Idylls—makes further use of this concept of dislocating time: using antique wallpaper from the 1930 to 1950s, Dorman roots his Idylls in the false nostalgia conjured by sentimental, idealized Americana landscape scenes. The wallpapers—which the paintings are simultaneously rooted in and a commentary upon — offer “a strange vision of America,” one that does not correspond with its historical past or daily realities. Indeed, Dorman began incorporating these anachronistic visions of a genteel, pastoral America during the pandemic, in the midst of political strife, racial tension and a mounting climate change crisis. The Idylls strive to find beauty, peace, and joy in darkly humorous illusions of/allusions to an imagined past. 

Both series on view at the gallery represent a complete surrender to the artist’s internal world and vision. “All are completely discovered in the making,” Dorman explains. “My goal was not to force or even will images into being but to layer, labor, and carve forms until the beings or the idyllic worlds earned their existence.”

Josh Dorman, Being (Threads), 2022. © Josh Dorman; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

Josh Dorman (b. 1966 Baltimore, MD) is an American artist who recontextualizes antique images within fantastical drawn and painted worlds. Dorman sources collages, engravings and diagrams culled from textbooks, manuals and documents that were published prior to the widespread use of photography. He considers unfamiliar, obsolete and cryptic systems to inform these choices and ultimately his process, resulting in non-linear, multi-layered narratives that explore the mythical landscape and notions of collapsed time, altered boundaries and dream states. Dualities of chaos and order, natural and manmade, fluidity and restraint reoccur and create tension in his collaged universes. Essential to his oeuvre, Dorman’s references to artists Paul Klee and Pieter Brueghel, as well as to Sienese art and Chinese landscapes, transcend history and time. 

Dorman graduated Skidmore College in 1988 and received his MFA from Queens College in 1992. He has exhibited at Craft and Folk Art Museum, CA; CUE Art Foundation, NY; The Drawing Center, NY; Katonah Museum, NY; The National Academy Museum, NY; Tang Museum, NY; Trierenberg Corporate Kunsthalle, AU; and Weatherspoon Art Museum, NC. His work is included in permanent collections at the Butler Institute of American Art, OH; International Collage Center, PA; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; Naples Museum, FL; Springfield Art Museum, MO; Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, NY. Dorman is currently an artist in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, ME. A solo exhibition of Dorman’s paintings from his series Portraits From the Memory Bridge will be on view at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, TX. He lives and works in New York, NY.

Follow the artist on Facebook and Instagram.

Josh Dorman, Being #5 (Nocturne), 2022. © Josh Dorman; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

Josh Dorman: Idyll ~ Idol will be on view from January 5 to February 11, 2023 at Ryan Lee Gallery, 515 West 26th Street, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on Thursday, January 5 from 6:00 to 8:00pm.

Below, a short interview with Josh Dorman about his exhibition in the Winter Garden ‘In the Presence’ at Brookfield Place earlier this year.

Separate and aside from his upcoming exhibition at Ryan Lee Gallery, we discovered his amazing project dealing with Alzheimer’s patients. This thoughtful ‘in-conversation’ and artwork is best described in his short video ‘Josh Dorman: Memory Bridge, Portraits of Dementia.’  Be sure to watch the last five-minutes of the video for his thoughts on what he describes as a journey into another reality.

  • A note of gratitude to curator Connie Lee of Living with Art Salon and Art Lives Here for a heads-up on this remarkable artist after her recent visit to his studio. Pictures from her studio visit with Josh Dorman can be found on her Instagram and Facebook pages.