Ragsdale, Chine-Collé & Hamilton
Ragsdale, Chine-Collé & Hamilton—Law firm? Nope, more like a mashup of artist-collage technique-historical figure/subject of a hit musical. It all started when a good friend of artist and theater fanboy Kyle Ragsdale gifted him with the soundtrack to the musical "Hamilton" for his birthday. The cd now has a permanent home in his truck's cd player and if you pass him on the road on any given day, you will probably spy him singing along.
Primarily a painter, Ragsdale is best known for his paintings of women, often in period garb, and reflective of his love of costumery. In graduate school, he enjoyed collage, working mostly with found object trash paper like chopstick holders and candy wrappers. His interest was rekindled when he traveled to Guanajuato, Mexico in January for a printmaking workshop.
In Mexico, he learned a process called chine-collé that involves printing into and over decorative paper. Ragsdale was inspired by Guanajuato history, architecture and museums. And not surprisingly, he spotted some costume books in class and started painting revolutionary war-era figures from the books. With that, the groundwork was laid for his new body of work.
"Hamilton and Other Clandestine Characters," which opens in Gallery No. 2 this Friday, joins the inspiration from the musical "Hamilton" and Mexico with a return to collage. Though almost every piece in the show features the same figure (whose stance and costume come straight from the costume books), they are composed of such a wide variety of materials and colors that they will easily hold the viewer's interest. A cloud-like shape hovers over most of the figures that, as Ragsdale explains, mimics patterns he saw in Guanajuato and also symbolizes Alexander Hamilton's life, both the tragedy and the inspiring thoughtfulness.
The largest pieces in the show, eight feet tall and built on sheets of pink insulation, reference Hamilton lyrics, incorporating tea bags, tea stains and nickel holders (a nod to Hamilton's role as Secretary of the U.S. Treasury). Ragsdale says he enjoyed experimenting with the insulation, noting that it was "really cool" the way applying spray paint ate into the insulation, creating interesting textures. Additional texture and interest were created with trash collected from the neighborhood (lottery tickets, cigarette wrappers, etc.) combined with costume book imagery, decorative papers and more.
It is fun to see an artist change things up with a different medium and Ragsdale is clearly enjoying his return to collage and a newly-mastered technique. Come to the Harrison Center this Friday night and check it out. The work hangs through April 29.