Untied States

Protect Room
November 12th – December 10th 2016

Ryan Thomas Monahan hails from Yorkville, Illinois. Utilizing a combination of physical and imaginative exploration Ryan creates miniaturized three dimensional portraits of urban landscapes. His desire to capture the beauty and grime of the world we live in is filled with moments of agony and glory. The exhibit title: “Between Heaven N’ Hell” refers to Ryan’s love/hate relationship with his creative process and the adventures it takes him on.

Look around, could you reproduce your environment using materials of no relation to their original purpose and fit it all inside a space the size of a shoe box? Construction is a difficult process; the required knowledge brings many different professions together. However, in this instance, Ryan is the ultimate construction worker – He does it all from the ground up at 1/24 the scale.

The majority of Ryan’s work portrays a fictional location. Creating a unique environment allows him to pull inspiration from visual and personal influences. It also allows him to consider using anything and everything for materials – Call him a “Junk Drawer Pirate”.

Never ending options opens the door to a world of infinite challenges and outcomes. For instance, his new work titled “Brinbane St.” is set in a subway station, quite possibly one of the grittiest locations you can conjure. No detail is spared – Every surface has been painstakingly covered in rust, dirt and funk. Set in the background is a typical subway newsstand featuring miniaturized magazines and newspapers so realistic looking you want to read one. To top it off, this piece hangs framed on the wall, flip a hidden switch and lights illuminate the newsstand. The combination of attention to detail and unique viewing perspective truly puts you into the scene.

Another interesting work is “Wabash” which is a free standing structure featuring a dilapidated “Pay to Park” stand. The visual is one of loneliness and despair – With no parking lot in sight the building takes on an even more desperate and loathsome existence. Once again no detail is spared – The sign is beautifully constructed and magnetized for easy handling. The “Pay” neon sign is burned out but we see a faint paint discoloration from color burn. The addition of a broken pay phone and this place is definitely between heaven and hell.


With a special interest in the darker side of sprawling metropolises, Ryan Monahan’s collection of grungy city tableau’s, complete with corner bodegas and, abandoned store fronts, capture the spirit of the inner city in miniature. Ryan, who is a graphic designer during the day, has been building the scaled-down sculptures for little over a year now. With a close familiarity with the gritty side of the street, Ryan is careful to pinpoint every single detail in his sculptures from debris on the ground to graffiti on the walls.

Tell us a bit about your work, career, school, city, ideas, etc
I fell into this. I needed a break from the day to day doodles and paintings I was doing after sitting behind a computer all day. The only way I know how to relax is by working on more stuff. Creating in-depth, time consuming pieces I can really sink my teeth into are a way I keep busy.

What is more important – Content or technique?
I like to think technique, the content can change from time to time but I’m constantly trying to expand and prefect my techniques to execute my final vision.

How many hours do your pieces generally take to complete?
Typically I work on a piece for about a month or so, depending on the size and complexity that can fluctuate. Since I work full time during the day, I try to come home and work at least a few hours a day. I pretty much obsess over the piece until it is completed..or on the verge of being overworked. Usually the biggest road blocks come from me not having a sound plan worked out ahead of time… planning is everything when it comes to keeping a project on a timeline.

What are some of the responses you hear in regards to your work?
I think working in miniature you really attract a wide group of viewers. Everyone likes tiny s#!t to a certain degree! Most people are usually shocked by the level of detail once they are in front of a piece. People really get a kick out of learning what found objects make there way into a piece, I like that a lot. I’m a fan of hiding little “Easter Eggs” in pieces, stuff that you really need to hunt for.

What is currently influencing you that might surprise people?
I draw inspiration from the most random s#!t, It changes from day to day. I collect loads of xerox printouts of reference material, some photos by me, some by others and some just found off the web. I like to refer to that form of reference more than digital photos saved to my phone or whatever. Something about having a big overflowing binder of photos to thumb through to get the juices flowing does it for me.

Describe your work environment – Music, TV, Movies, things you drink/smoke, time of day etc
I recently moved into a much larger work space giving me lots of room to work and have plenty of storage. I like to stand while I work, I had an art teacher that always told me we create better when we stand..I think she was on to something.

I usually like to keep things pretty chill when I’m working, I watch lots of classic movies from the 80s and 90s while I work, it helps me focus for long periods of time. I typically feel the most creative and productive in the morning hours but any chance I can get down to my studio and work, I do.

Do the locations you create have any personal meaning?
Yea they def do, I spent some time living in the city and really soaked up all the not friendly looking places. I love how much character a building can have. When I started doing this style of art, I naturally gravitated towards city and urban environments I guess because it seemed the most entertaining. I mainly create fictional store fronts giving me control to do whatever I want. Usually each piece has a link to my past in some capacity, but none of them ever have some deep rooted meaning. I’m just out to make some cool s#!t.

It takes a lot of different creative techniques to pull off your pieces – Out of all the different materials and techniques what are your favorite and least favorite to use?
One of my favorite parts of creating this form of art is that I feel I use so many skills I’ve picked up over the years as an artist. I use everything under the sun for my artwork, nothing is off limits when it comes to materials. My favorite part would have to be painting, You really get to breath life into an otherwise flat pile of cr&p. My least favorite material to work with is foam, I use a lot of it, and it causes me to vacuum daily… Luckily I enjoy vacuuming.

Is there anything you have not been able to recreate?
Oh yea, loads of stuff. I tinker around with learning what materials work well for certain needs all the time. Kind of like a form of research and development before I tackle the actual piece. I always try to take baby steps when it comes to expanding what I’m making. If I can’t make it well I wont make it at all.

If you could choose only one, would you rather be thought of as a great artist or a nice person?
A nice person for sure. I will always please and disappoint people with my art, it is inevitable.


Media: Foam, chip board, birch wood, plastics, cardboard, various papers, guitar strings, acrylic and more
Size: 12 x 10 x 22 inches
Year: 2016
Price: $3300
Availability: Inquire

Media: Foam, chip board, birch wood, plastics, cardboard, various papers, coat hangers, LED lights, acrylic and more
Hidden switch activates LED lighting
Size: Framed: 10 x 14 x 9 inches – Incl. Museum Glass
Year: 2016
Price: $3000
Availability: SOLD

Media: Foam, chip board, birch wood, plastics, cardboard, various papers, cosmetic caps, LED lights, acrylic and more
Hidden switch activates LED lighting
Size: Framed: 16 x 11 x 6 inches – Incl. Museum Glass
Year: 2016
Price: $3000
Availability: SOLD

Media: Plastic, chip board, metal sheeting, pins, acrylic and more
Size: Framed: 18 x 8 x 2
Year: 2016
Price: $1000
Availability: SOLD

Media: Glue stick, roll of tape, acrylic and more
Size: 4 x 4 x 8 Inches
Year: 2016
Price: $500
Availability: SOLD