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Babel’s Bricks: The Power of Play

by Michelle Aldredge, gwarlingo.com
June 23, 2017


While North Adam’s MASS MoCA celebrates the grand opening of Building 6 this month, just down the street Gallery 51 embraces its playful side as guest-curator Corwin Levi tackles the most ambitious of art enterprises: participation.

Ryder Richards’s four drawings of commonplace hardware items—unified by their glowing, fluorescent orange—are also a knockout. From a distance, the clarity of the objects, and the satisfying shadow cast by the roll of tape, fooled me into thinking the works were photographs. Instead, they are finely executed acrylic and graphite drawings cleverly playing off of the block concept. These objects—an industrial extension cord, clamps, and roll of tape—are both blocks themselves, as well as the glue that allows other systems of blocks to exist in the first place. Levi believes they can be considered visual metaphors and linguistic symbols too, quite literally in the case of the O-shaped tape. Ryder is also a master of titles—“Apocalypse Prevention Kit” for the tape drawing, “Birds of a Feather…Are Stupid Together” for the flock of six clamps, and “Electric Lasso = Disco Power + Impromptu Bondage Maker” for the extension cord. It’s hard to believe so much meaning can be crammed into four drawings of everyday objects.