NY Times
Art in Review
Huston Ripley: 'Drawings'
By KEN JOHNSON
Published: September 15, 2011
Adam Baumgold
60 East 66th Street, Manhattan
Through Oct. 8

Drawing with a fine-point black pen in a sweet, cartoonish style, Huston Ripley creates entrancing, densely crosshatched and patterned compositions resembling a hippie's version of cosmic Hindu painting. He works on sheets of tissue-thin Japanese paper, some as large as posters. The generally symmetrical compositions have outer edges of concentric, rectangular bands like those of Oriental rugs. Within these borders, figurative elements emerge from irregular but always richly profuse patterning: heads and nude bodies of long-haired women and bearded men; human reproductive organs; and snakes, eggs and skulls. Though repetitious, they are hypnotic - addictive even - to look at.

The mesmerizing effect comes partly from an identification with Mr. Ripley's absorption in the process of drawing. His approach might be likened to meditative prayer or chanting that precipitates an opening of ordinary consciousness to a mystical dimension of archetypal forms, personae and relations in transcendental space. He channels and integrates these into a holistic fabric backed by the universal yin-yang of male and female and their mutual sexual attraction.

Mr. Ripley's mood is comic but sincerely so. He is not a Postmodernist skeptic satirizing the possibly pharmaceutically inspired clichés of New Age romance. Following his own bliss, he weaves an infectious, optically captivating, spiritually infectious tapestry of Gnostic revelation.

A version of this review appeared in print on September 16, 2011, on page C31 of the New York edition with the headline: Huston Ripley: 'Drawings'.

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According to What: Notes on Art, Design and Asia
By Owen Houhoulis
Published online: October 8, 2011

Pick a God. There are many here to choose from.
Huston Ripley’s beautiful exhibition at Adam Baumgold Gallery ends today. These obsessive drawings are made with ink on thin Japanese paper. The effect is almost that of a Mandelbrot Set, in that the closer you get the more you see (hence the inclusion of detail shots above).

Ripley’s drawings have a devotional spiritualism to them, they feel like the by-product of meditative acts of atonement. Their density recalls both Tibetan Buddhist mandalas and Christian gothic cathedral portal sculptures. There are distnct references being made: the snake, the virgin, the Christ-figure, rivers, the she-wolf; a collection of the icons of religious art have all been brought together. The effect isn’t so much to build a narrative of religious training as to assemble these forms into an overall patina of design, much as a Persian Rug would. His drawings are devotional, but what they are devotional to is left up to the viewer.

The artist’s draftsmanship is impressive, as is his attention to detail, patience and dedication. The density of the image combined with the lightness and simplicity of the materials is a beautiful combination.

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NY Arts Magazine
July - August 2008

Hello Kali: The Drawings of Huston Ripley
By Harold Weiss, Professor of Philosophy at Northampton Community College

The drawings of Huston Ripley can undoubtedly be labeled “Visionary.” Firmly rooted in deep levels of collective imagery, they bubble up insistently from the artist's unconscious. For viewers they conjure windows onto a singular world crowded with imagery, action, and aura. They are also obsessive-compulsive, in the best sense of the term—a relentless and recursive projection of a unique inner world, densely populated by beings and bodies. Filled with faces and phalluses, eyes and eggs, nipples and navels, scimitars and sexual cynosures, serpents and skulls, and brains and breasts, his compositions are all portentous, archetypal, metaphysical, psychedelic, sexy—and ultimately—affirmative.

I have long linked Ripley's work to the rich traditions of Asian art, in particular the fecund figures of Hinduism, even though there are not any explicitly Asian, Hindu, or Buddhist elements in them. As a philosopher, I naturally reach for more sophisticated and historically significant theories to articulate the primal pleasure I get from these drawings. A key element of Hindu metaphysics is the triadic pantheon of Vishnu/ Brahma/ Shiva, symbolizing the inter-penetration of creation, sustenance, and destruction (which is also directly analogous to Hegel's dialectic of thesis/ antithesis/ synthesis). I find this same kind of fusion of elements in Ripley's drawings. They clearly portray the idea of creativity through the motifs of halos, bowls, cupped hands, eggs, and sex. He prominently features faces and heads, which despite their relatively passive expressions, still explode or expand with activity. The concept of “sustainment” is expressed in the imagery through the idea of food, the general sense of ingestion, and of course through sex. The often-inviting gentleness of the figures’ hand gestures implies nurturing and support. Simultaneously they also evoke a Shiva-like celebration of destruction and death. All these aspects are
intricately intertwined and rendered with a sense of spontaneity and immediacy.

The theme of eating is a hybrid of sustenance and destruction, as noted by Freud in his fine and final Outline of Psychoanalysis. He wrote: “...the two basic instincts operate against each other or combine with each other. Thus the act of eating is a destruction of the object with the final aim of incorporating it, while the sexual act is one of aggression with the purpose of the most intimate union.” The “cosmic egg” regularly resurfaces in these drawings, bobbing up as a kind of veined brain. Ready to be made into an omelet, it is an organic orb. A pregnant crystal ball for sexual soothsaying, it suggests not only creativity and rebirth, but also brunch. Though Kali drinks blood and devours her devotees, she is nonetheless seen as compassionate. The hand gestures, facial expressions, and smiles of Ripley’s figures are more ambivalent and inviting than might be intuited at first glance. In this way, these figures are reminiscent of wrathful Tibetan deities, who may seem at first like scary aggressive demons, but who are actually reassuring protectors.

Here again the Hindu/ Hegelian dialectic fuels my fascination with these drawings. This dialectic is also evident in their gendered nature. Though they are obviously extremely sexual in nature, their significance is essentially more psychological and spiritual in nature. I suspect some may find them sexist, but I would have to disagree. A closer inspection of them reveals that the female figures in this dream world are not merely sexualized objects, but rather supremely strong and self-assured subjects. They are integral and complementary to the predominating masculine sexual energy. Male and female, sex and death, fear and fun are all intertwined and balanced in Ripley’s work. We must destroy something in order to eat it—to become one with it—in order to live. There is something achingly ancient about these drawings, yet at the same time quite contemporary. The fact that this prolific, persistent process actually began on the napkins of the bars and diners of a gritty city makes it all a bit post-modern, and again links them to food and sex. So I encourage you to stare at these drawings for a while; dig the dialectic.

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NY Arts Magazine (Excerpt)
April 2000

Quick Take on Williamsburg
By Robert C. Morgan

Huston Ripley is one of the more original artists I have encountered in recent months, one of the most intense, but in a sustained way, a way that does not easily give itself away. His show at Planet Thailand (which lasted for three months) was a superb one. The paintings deal again with mystically-endowed creatures, anthropomorphic gods and goddesses sexually entwined or in a state of metamorphosis. Like imagined manifestations of Buddha, these tankha-like paintings (mostly in black and white linear configurations) are a relative tour-de-force. They offer an everyman's spiritual decorum to a special place. Ripley has a knack for knowing the possibility of the form before he embarks on one of these creature paintings. The androgyny is elusive, yet there is always a pulse, a metering of time in relation to the space. The way his paintings hung at Planet Thailand gave an elegance to the interior that no other works have been able to match. Rather than revolving shows, the owner would be best to purchase the Ripleys and have them permanently installed. They fit the mood of the place like a hand in a glove, like white on rice, like black on coal.