Promise Witness
May 14th - June 3rd, 2022
pt.2 gallery 

It was cold on the mountain as a North Pacific gale seated itself on our coastline. The subalpine flowers accumulated their share with little persuasion. It was beyond green, I gazed into nothing, The wind was a crowd. Not expecting my solitude to be distorted by thoughts of our friend, Ryan Whelan,
I come here on days of bad weather knowing nobody else will. California is masterful at its staging of liminal poetics, and this time was no exception.

For those of you who believe in gifts bestowed by extraordinary forces, I again find myself: Spicer’s Nimrod. Jack Spicer, the championed Bay Area poet, believed the poet’s work is reduced to an almost mechanical act of listening and receiving to what Spicer called the Outside—a field of forces that invade rather than inspire, and before which the poet is little more than a secretary taking dictation. Now fully poised to accept the assertion of the Outside, the limitations once imposed upon Ryan’s work are enjoyably nonexistent.

It’s possible the lushness of this landscape brought me back to where Ryan’s previous works had left us; deep within intimately crafted verdant worlds, where the burdens of modernity fell to the consumption of nature. One piece of his in particular, made in 2020, exhibited this stance:


There’s an open field


Just growing greener.

Although these lines do not necessarily apply to the aesthetic direction these new works take, I find the ethos of this poetic observation perfectly summarizes the ultimate voice he is interested in casting out to us.

Prior to this metastasization of thought, I had solicited the help of Ryan’s most trusted confidant, his wife & fellow artist Liz Hernandez, for advice as to how to proceed with drafting language about this new body of work. She went on to say; his paintings function as totems of self-reflection. These forms remind us of our insignificance and offer us a bigger perspective. They are emblems that make us question our mortality because they will outlive us.

The phrase Promise Witness rang through me. Something I see as a moral commitment to the responsibilities and consequences of living one's life as a witness to all possibilities.

I had initially considered these to be oppositional works; rooted in their distaste for the commodification of theme, or narrative in contemporary art. I was wrong. What I had begun to realize is through this gestural abstraction, Ryan encourages us to transcribe our individual internal resonance, like Spicer encouraged the resonant howl of the Outside. Through the addition and subtraction of layers, the symphonic harmony of raking light, the choreographed utilization of both hands, and the intentionality of stroke, an experiential practice unfolds itself. These are undoubtedly works of Ryan’s, the familiarity of keystone elements remains silently in command. They are simply free to move themselves in any direction at the behest of an artist who finds himself standing on the verge amid a revelatory glow.

Text written by Cole Solinger


A named thing is not a known thing (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
70x91 inches

Beginnings (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
55x74.25 inches

Redirect it or ressurect it (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
70x91 inches

How to live with joy and seperation (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
17.25x22.25  inches

The collision of yes and no (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
21.25x27.25 inches

Confluence 2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
24.25x31.25 inches

The union (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
14.25x17.25 inches

Energy always transfers (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
85x65 inches

How to create miralces and plagues (2022)
Ink and acrylic on paper
18.5x14.5 inches

At the canyon’s mouth I am singing (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel diptych
72 x 133 inches

What did you feel and where did you feel it?(2022)
Acrylic and charcoal on paper
14.5x18.5 inches

The wind is actually wild(2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
70x91 inches

Vigil (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
21.25x27.25 inches

Pressure (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
25.25x35.25 inches

Hope springs eternal (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
27.25x26.25 inches

Things thought below can move high above you (2022)
Acrylic on wood panel
16.25x25.25  inches

 Installation Views

A Weed By Any Other Name

Ryan Whelan (b. 1991) is an Oakland-based artist whose current practice uses abstraction as a means for self-confrontation. He utilizes elemental forms to construct scenes of his inner world, somewhere he feels limitless images are waiting to be discovered. Whelan considers paintings as objects that must react to their environment around them, mirroring the same dynamic ability our surroundings have on us. He does this by using texture as color, often building up gestural impasto layers of paint that construct surfaces that dance with light, making the work an experience that changes as the day goes by.

Originally from Torrance, California, Whelan moved to the Bay Area in 2009 to earn his BFA in Printmaking from San Francisco State University. He has exhibited in the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Los Angeles, and Paris. Whelan has an upcoming exhibition with Liz Hernández at the new Institute of Contemporary Art in San Francisco.

San Francisco State University – Bachelor of Fine Arts, Printmaking - 2015

Selected Exhibitions

2023 - A Weed By Any Other Name, ICA SF
2022 - Promise Witness, Part2 Gallery, Oakland, CA
2020 - The sum of my surroundings, Part2 Gallery, Oakland, CA
2018 - Provisions, Part2 Gallery, Oakland, CA
2018 - Why am I crawling in this dirt?, Stephanie Chefas Projects, Portland, OR
2017 - SUN BATH, Legion Shop, SF, CA
2016 - a pot is a pot is a pot is a pot, Good Mother, Oakland, CA

Selected Group Exhibitions
2023 - Working Craft, 120710, Berkeley, CA

2022 - Irrelevant Press & Friends, Aggregate Space, Oakland, CA

2021 – Art of the Heist: Virtual Benefit, Arts of Life, Chicago, IL
2021 – Art Kala 2021!, Kala Art Institute, Oakland, CA
2021 – 20th Annual Root Division Art Auction, Root Division, SF, CA
2021 - Represented Group Show, Part2 Gallery, Oakland, CA
2021 – Californisme: partie 2, Bimbam Gallery, Paris, France

2020 - soothe, Sugarlift, New York, NY
2020 - Friends and Family, Hashimoto Contemporary, SF, CA

2019 - November Group Los Angeles, Part2 Gallery, LA, CA
2019 - Summer Collective, Stephanie Chefas Projects, Portland, CA
2019 - Camp Fire Relief Auction, Minnesota Street Project

2018 - Divisions of Labor, Minnesota Street Project, SF, CA
2018 - Know You, Athen B. Gallery, Oakland, CA

2017 - A Group Thing, Stephanie Chefas Projects, Portland, OR

2016 - Welkom Baek, Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, SF, CA
2016 - New Folk, The Galallery, San Francisco, CA

2015 - A Walk with Friends, Everyday SF, San Francisco, CA
2015 - Hang Tang, Sgraffito, Emeryville, CA
2015 - Having Fun, Farley’s East, Oakland, CA
Saturday Feb 4 2023