July 24, 2013


I spoke with artist Ryder Richards about his participation in Oxford American‘s inaugural art exhibition Crossing Borders, which starts August 1st. {curated by Susan Mumford}  Richards calls Texas home and focuses on object making, large installations, and works that call into mind their spatial context.  We spoke the day after the verdict arrived in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.  That news shaded our conversation a bit, especially since Richards’ recent work focuses on guns as instruments and tools.  I found our conversation, though unfocused, elicited a lot of interesting material about the South and how it is perceived by its own artists and the world at large.  What follows has been edited for clarity.   

What does your current work from Crossing Bordersfocus on?

They’re all featuring hands holding guns, so this idea of the gun as a tool and a weapon, and of course referencing the individual that is making a choice or the decision with that weapon or tool in their hand.  A lot of this comes out of some research and work that I’ve been in for quite a while that is based on this notions of environmental determinism.  These ideas that whatever culture you’re raised in is impacted by the land, and that in turn sort of generates a type of individual, and within the South/Southwest region, there is a sort of slant towards violence and this is borne out in a book called Culture of Honor.

These guys actually did these tests which are really crazy, they have these people walking down a really narrow hallway and they have someone bump into them or call them something like an asshole, and then they’d walk into this room and they’d immediately swab their mouth.  And you can test for adrenaline and cortisol levels.  And people from the South, when they get bumped and insulted, their adrenaline level spikes and they’re ready to fight somebody.  I find [the studies] to be, well, it sort of holds up to my personal experiences.

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