Capturing Ryan McNamara

Installation view of Ryan McNamara's "Gently Used" at Mary Boone

Installation view of Ryan McNamara's "Gently Used" at Mary Boone

Gently Used, the artist Ryan McNamara’s new show at Mary Boone’s uptown gallery, is not designed for Instagram. Mannequin arms and legs, props, and costumes overlaid with stills from McNamara’s previous performances appear under flashes of jewel-toned light, the choreography so quick that a particular shade or shadow is gone almost instantly. “By the time you get your phone out, it’s over,” McNamara said before the opening last Thursday. The presentation, he said, “denies the user”—especially so in a climate where “the iPhone mediates everything,” added the show’s curator Piper Marshall.

McNamara and Marshall first met seven years ago, at a dinner hosted by the Swiss Institute, where Marshall used to be a curator. (She will organize six shows at Mary Boone this year.) They found themselves debating the success of the installation on view, a dialogue they kept up at dinners, parties, openings for exhibitions to follow—“places where you’re not supposed to talk about that,” Marshall said. For their first collaboration, McNamara, who is known primarily for performances like last year’s MEEM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, wanted to challenge the conventions of his venue by bringing the difficult-to-capture experience of live performance to a gallery show.

McNamara—who was a teenage subscriber to the *National Enquirer—*often delves into how we “perform” our own identities every day in public. In the gallery, framed T-shirts bear his own visage; a headless mannequin in a turtleneck pushes a cart full of fabric; a slightly tilted chair is wrapped in candy-colored performance stills. The show takes props and costumes left over from McNamara’s previous pieces dating as far back as 2008, and gives them new life. “They create their own performance, Fantasia style, that doesn’t pay attention to the performances they were in before,” he said.

“Gently Used” is on view through February 28 at New York’s Mary Boone, 745 Fifth Avenue.