Local Artist Profile

A Houston-Based Contemporary Artist You Should Know: Ryan Hawk

Houston artist Ryan Hawk shares five things he loves and what inspires him to create.

By Amarie Gipson November 2, 2022 Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Impossible Erasures (of the impossible) #6, 2021; tattoo on silicone rubber, synthetic hair, silver piercing rings, shadowbox; 64” x 92” x 4.5”.

Image: Ryan Hawk 

Artists in the Gulf Coast continue to inspire with their unique and innovative approaches to materials, color, and controversial issues of today. This fall, we asked visual artist Ryan Hawk to share five things that he loves. 

Image: Ryan Hawk

Through sculpture and video, conceptual artist Ryan Hawk investigates the way we relate to our bodies. A Houston native, Hawk completed his graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin and returned to Houston in 2018 as an artist in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s prestigious Core Residency program.

Hawk uses silicone as his primary material and is fascinated by the way it is employed across industries, from plastic surgery to petrochemicals and even sexual lubricants. His “flesh-objects” critique the complexities of whiteness and patriarchy through his exploration of tattooing and how the practice is embedded within colonial history. As recently featured in the 2021 Texas Biennial, for example, Impossible Erasures of the Impossibility draws on American poet Fred Moten’s critique of theorist Frantz Fanon’s thoughts on liberal humanism to explore the blackout trend in tattooing and its connection to race. 

Five Things Ryan Hawk Loves

  1. Silicone rubber “I’m interested in silicone’s inherent corporeality. It looks and feels like flesh, and it’s used within overlapping economies.”

  2. Reading “I’m an avid reader, particularly history and theory. I want people to read more.”
  3. Frantz Fanon

    Image: Courtesy

    Frantz Fanon “Fanon’s work teaches us that not only is race a cultural construct, but racism is the structure of Western aesthetic culture, and it’s embedded in everything. Fanon insists that revolutionary, anticolonial violence is crucial, and that’s a part of his work that is so undervalued.”

  4. Child’s Play “The horror genre as a whole is super important to my practice, but the Chucky films were super formative for me from a very young age.”

  5. Surrealist galleries at the Menil Collection “It’s really special and incredibly diverse. It was also really important for me to experience this collection at such a young age.” Ryan Hawk reflects on the significance of the Menil Collection’s surrealist galleries here.

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