Will Ryman (b. 1969) is the elder son of Robert and Merrill. He started out as an actor and playwright though he too eventually assumed a visual art practice to become a sculptor. He is best known for his large-scale public artworks and theatrical installations that focus on the figurative and psychological, at times absurdist, narratives. Cordy Ryman (b. 1971) is the youngest, and the only one of the three who knew that he was going to be a visual artist early on. His work is abstract, the sophistication understated, and his output is prolific. With his mother’s DIY flair, his homely materials seem sourced from the overflow of construction projects, lumberyards, and Home Depot.
Ethan Ryman said that, when he was young, he didn’t want to be a visual artist. Instead, he pursued music and acting, producing records for Wu-Tang Clan, among others, getting “my ears blown out.” But he was always surrounded by artists—Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Jan Dibbetts, William Anastasi, and countless others at his mother’s place on Prince Street in SoHo and at the Rymans’s 1847 Greek Revival brownstone on 16th Street in Manhattan, where everyone was often seated around the family dinner table. He would spend part of most weekends in the highly stimulating chaos that reigned there—birds, dogs, plants, toys, art, people, everywhere. “While nowhere near as overwhelming, I was also constantly exposed to artists, writers and other creative folks at my Mom’s place.”