Though Ryan Roa’s (b. 1974) simple sculptures evoke immediate comparisons to Minimalism, Roa’s practice and process possess an inherent intimacy born of his meticulous handling of materiality that set asides the coldness of standard Minimalist work. Roa uses industrial materials such as expanded steel, plywood, and bungee cords, to create immersive site-specific installations that cater to their surrounding architectures. Calculating the brink of tension through meditative trial and error, Roa works with the material to expose its inherent characteristics, while pushing each element to its further point.
He takes a methodical approach to his work that is apparent particularly in his numerous drawings on paper. Using pen, ink, pencil, or charcoal, Roa outlines parameters for himself to follow. Whether they take the form of geometric shapes, vectored angles, or darkened monochromatic colors, Roa’s drawings are simultaneously aggressive and submissive. It’s this tension that Roa attempts to explore: how do layers of charcoal react to textured paper? And, more importantly, how does he enhance this process without the abrasiveness of sole authorship?
It is perhaps Roa’s background in the military that drives him to seek a dichotomy of control and freedom. Finding peace in his work, Roa allows material forms to speak for themselves, but forces them to teeter precipitously on destruction. His expanded steel sculptures are constantly at tension with nature’s forces; yet, it is their inherent expandability and weight that allows the sculpture to be manifest at all.
Roa’s works have been exhibited in institutional and private spaces throughout the United States. After completing such prestigious residencies as The Fountainhead Residency in Miami Florida, and AIM 29 at the Bronx Museum, Roa has gone on to exhibit in major institutions like the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Queens Museum of Art, Jersey City Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park. He was selected by a jury to present at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as in the El Museo del Barrio’s 2011 Biennale.