Uncompromising Tang: David Johnson [on] Ryder Richards
Jan. 25, 2014


David Johnson (aside as intro): I first met Ryder while we both where at Texas Christian University in 2003 while Ryder was getting his MFA and I was working on my BFA. Ryder was first the Teaching Assistant for my painting class and later my figure drawing instructor then eventually friend. Time went by and I moved away to St. Louis to pursue my MFA. Every once and awhile we would reconnect. Generally this would happen after I had been in the studio working and begun listening to one of the many masterfully mixed CD’s Ryder made me before my semester in Italy.

After a while we got back into conversation about things—what we’re doing in the studio, the process and how the “machine” works.  Ryder’s been a friend, mentor, collector and curator of mine and I thought it would be compelling to put our email conversations into form.

David Johnson: How’s it going? Last time we saw each other we were eating dim sum, trading art in the parking lot and getting our faces melted by Omar Fast at the DMA.

Ryder Richards: Yes, face melting at the Dallas Museum with a belly of dim sum and a car full of art. A really good day.


DJ: You have your hands in a lot of different art related practices. You recently finished a year long residency in Roswell making new and incredible work, you just gave a paper on the failure of the B.F.A degree, you teach, you are a gallery director/coordinator, you have had several different curatorial programs, you write about what’s going on in the art scene in north Texas and the list goes on.
I’m always curious on how an artist navigates his or her own practice. It appears that, gone are the days of sitting in the studio just making. Most artists, I know are curating, writing, showing, working for other institutions, working for other artist and freelancing (sometimes for free). Do you feel that these are different practices away from your studio do they inform each other or do you delegate them to different “boxes” or “hats”? Are you just trying to pay rent? Or does it matter?

To be honest, this question sometimes bores me. It might not matter, and as long as people are adding to the conversation, it can’t be that bad.




RR: Paraphrase: isn’t it fucked up how much we work?

Yeah, it is kind of boring to talk about how hard we work and how many jobs we all have because we are preaching to the choir; we are all serving a penance or brutal apprenticeship for choosing art. However, we did choose it, so we need to understand what that means. Maybe that can lead to change, maybe.

There is a problem within the system in that we need to have reputational aplomb in order to have our work recognized; we have to prove our dedication and seriousness before being taken seriously. In this way the system turns us into what it needs us to be: hard workers or great bullshitters, but more than often we become both.

I think this brings up the odd commingling of personal biography/celebrity and the art we make. These can seldom be separated. When I first got to Dallas I noticed a group of ‘usual suspects’ who were invited to do something in every interesting show. Some of their work was good, but more importantly people thought of them when it was time to put together a show. I needed to be that, but I also needed to be as smart and accomplished as these people, hence all the extra jobs.

Executive Order 13526 file 644

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