UTA Artist Space is pleased to present a series of new paintings and sculptures by multidisciplinary artist, Ryan Wilde. Imagine There's No Bunny showcases Wilde's profound exploration of gender performance, the ways in which women use clothing to construct and reflect their identity, and the dynamics surrounding the iconic Playboy Bunny.
According to Wilde, “Clothing has long been used as a tool for self-expression and identity formation. However, for women, clothing has also been used as a means of navigating patriarchal systems and asserting agency in a world that often seeks to objectify and commodify their bodies.” As a classically trained milliner, Wilde has spent her entire career examining the sartorial strategies women use to navigate these systems.” The foundation of Wilde’s work is rooted in feminist theory responding to Jacques Lacan with Simone de Beauvoir and Joan Copjec. "Imagine There's No Woman: Ethics and Sublimation,” written by Copjec, explores the relationship between ethics, sexuality, and psychoanalysis, with a particular focus on the question of femininity. Copjec argues that the dominant theories of sexuality and subjectivity have historically excluded women and the title of the book is meant to suggest the possibility of imagining a world in which gender does not determine ethical or sexual norms.
Wilde further addresses these relationships, and societal dynamics through her exploration of the Playboy Bunny. The artist’s father, John Thompson, worked as an illustrator for Playboy in the 1980s and 90’s, occasionally painting Wilde in his work. Imagine There's No Bunny features a portrait of Wilde as a Playboy Bunny by Thompson, serving as a poignant exploration of the bunny costume from a generational perspective and the interplay between art, identity, and parenting. Furthermore, Wilde states, “I wanted to highlight the discomfort it causes to see the bunny costume rendered in this way. It forces the viewer to see the person behind the bunny in a very confrontational way.”
The artist’s history with the Playboy brand has profoundly influenced her own career. In Imagine There's No Bunny, she deconstructs the symbolism of the iconic bunny costume, examining how it can be both enticing and exploitative for women. Wilde states, “The costume becomes a way of hiding or disguising one’s true self and can become a form of sublimation of one’s desires and aspirations.” Wilde’s exhibition at UTA Artist Space highlights her millinery training, a craft historically assigned to women. Employing classical hat-making techniques and traditional materials such as felt, feathers, buckram, and grosgrain in six new sculptures, Wilde tempts viewers to try on the bunny costume and reflect on their own identity. Continuing its themes of performance, the exhibition also features a stationary large-scale puppet theater made by Wilde and modeled after the old Punch and Judy Theaters in London. Like bunnies, puppets have a disposition of trickery, both evoking worlds of innocence and violence. Wilde harnesses the puppet theatre’s talent for humor, parody, and political commentary in reference to the power of brands such as Playboy.
“I have long admired Ryan’s work and look forward to welcoming our visitors into the world she’s created. The various theories and perspectives highlighted in Ryan’s work show the complex and often fraught relationships between women, clothing, and power. By examining the agency of objects and the ways in which they shape our understanding of gender and identity, we can gain a greater appreciation for the cultural and social forces that shape our lives, and work towards greater empowerment and autonomy for women in all areas of society” says Zuzanna Ciolek, Director of UTA Artist Space, Beverly Hills.
Building on her career in millinery, Ryan WildeInstallation of Ryan Wilde: Imagine There’s No Bunny, 2023. Courtesy of the Artist and UTA Artist Space. (b. 1980, New York, NY) utilizes felt and wood mold-making to expand her craft, throwing a spotlight on the theatricality of gender and the development of female identity, particularly as it pertains to self-preservation. She is particularly interested in the molds we create when mirroring fetishized personae and the signs we generate from those molds. Her sculpture intends to accentuate an uncanny extreme woven into the objectification of women and the fetishization of clothing. For Wilde, felt is employed as a tangible reminder of the sartorial strategies women use to navigate patriarchal systems. Wilde received a BFA from Syracuse University and an MFA from Queens College. Most recently, her work has been exhibited at Anton Kern Gallery, Perrotin, and Galerie Julien Cadet in Paris. Her work as both artist and designer has been featured in Vogue, New American Paintings, New York Magazine, and Forbes, among other publications.