If you have ever had a cup of coffee or, more likely, a slice of pizza in the village of New Paltz, you are, knowingly or not, familiar with the art of Ryan Cronin. And therein lies its audacity. Cronin and his wife and business partner Melanie have branded this town, weaving their work through the community in all kinds of novel ways.
Cronin has never really painted much about New Paltz, which would be the more traditional relationship between artist and place. Instead, New Paltz itself has grown to resemble a Ryan Cronin painting. Now that’s some conceptual, medium-is-the-message ingenuity right there. Nothing in Cronin’s work limits him to New Paltz, but his work has somehow talked New Paltz into limiting itself to Cronin. Think of all the great art-as-social-process visionaries applauding that one from the grave.
It’s one thing when you talk the rockstar-drummer owner of New Paltz’ most successful and enduring breakfast Bistro into hanging your stuff; quite another when you have the same success at the gas station down the street.
Did Mobil corporate really approve that? Really? Props if they did. Until Howard Schultz opened up a quaint little café on the corner of Main and Plattekill, gas stations were the only national brand presence in the village of New Paltz (hard to imagine Old Aunt Lila’s Pure Home-Refined Diesel, pumped with love, but would that it were true). And now, Cronin’s work snakes like an invasive vine through this most regulated and predictable of retail environments. What a role reversal in a world where, I swear to god, I have oft’ suspected product placement dollars flowing in the prose of literary novels.
Meanwhile, down at Water Street Market, the Cronins operate their gallery, selling Ryan’s large canvasses as well as a huge variety of functional art, clothes and small items for us commoners, all tagged in some way with his unmistakable style.
About that style: Well, no art critic I, but it is fairly safe to describe Cronin’s large, colorful paintings as accessible, bold if not brash, and iconic in intention. A healthy streak of referential pop culture play intermingles with a genuine innocence, a simple, unironic and tactile delight in things, in colors that stick to eye after the head turns away, and in words. Language — words as matter — has always struck me as an important dimension of his designs, even in those designs without text. It is hard to look at a Cronin image without a bold, simple word or two popping into your mind.
Now, Ryan Cronin is kicking off a worldwide campaign to honor essential workers across the globe by sharing his creation, “Love Can Fly,” in partnership with #Foundersgive, an initiative that formed in response to COVID-19 to feed healthcare workers in hospitals in New York City. As of April 28, #foundersgive had delivered 1,029,469 products in five weeks to 38 NYC hospitals.
To support their work, Cronin is offering the original piece of art and a line of merchandise featuring Love Can Fly for purchase via his website, with a portion of the sales going directly to #foundersgive.
“As we sit in self-isolation, so many of us are searching for ways to give back,” said Cronin. “This is my way of making a difference: spreading hope and providing an opportunity to acknowledge those who are out there, every day, literally risking their lives to save others, to keep us fed, deliver our goods, and keep our communities running.”