In August of 2017, the New York-based artist Ryan McGinness worked with Bedrock, the Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund (QLCIF), Tony Hawk and Library Street Collective to produce Wayfinding, an art installation and skatepark in the city of Detroit. The park was designed by the legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk, and built by George Leichtweis of Modern Skate and Surf.
Wayfinding’s functional and mobile design allows it to move to another location in the city following the Monroe Blocks groundbreaking. The term “wayfinding” refers to the discipline applied to guiding people through a physical environment. These strategies for helping people navigate space are usually applied by architects and designers.When in the hands of a skateboarder and artist, the traditional guidelines for wayfinding get upended. Architectural elements and signage that were intended for one purpose are subverted in this installation, playing with the idea of the intent of a designed object and its resulting function. Hawk repurposed benches, rails, ramps, and curbs as props to serve the expression of skills and tricks. McGinness takes authoritative signs that normally dictate behavior with a universally understood visual language and undermines those forms with surreal and absurd imagery. Both approaches destabilize conventional utilities of forms in urban environments.
Trained formally as a graphic designer, the paintings of Ryan McGinness merge controlled abstraction with subverted logos and symbology to create bold delineative paintings. He is heavily influenced by artists such as Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, as well as insights that began as a skate kid in Virginia Beach: “I was always interested in how the application of symbols on what are otherwise ordinary objects, like skateboards and T-shirts, really transformed the value of those things. When I couldn’t afford the cool brands, I would just make my own,” says McGinness. Early on in his career, McGinness wrote and released a book called flatnessisgod, which has become something of a bible for designers worldwide and was celebrated by Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami.