Robert Ryman was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1930 and is well known for his minimalist style and use of monochromatic color. Ryman moved to New York City in 1953 after enlisting in the United States Army and fighting in the Korean War. While pursuing a career as a jazz musician, Ryman obtained a job as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art to help make ends meet. Ryman was introduced to artists Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin while working at the museum. It is the circumstances surrounding this job that helped shape Rymans future artistic career.
Ryman’s interest in the abstract expressionist movement driven by artists such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock, and Barrett Newman, sparked his desire to begin painting. He incorporated abstract expressionism’s use of spontaneous brushwork, but with mostly monochromatic paint. Over the years his style evolved to become increasingly minimalist with a greater focus on materiality. He was interested, not in creating an illusion or incorporating a hidden message into his compositions, but presenting the materials used at face value.
Major exhibitions of Ryman’s art have been held at Tate Gallery in London, England; Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.