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Betty Boop meets Ingres: the paintings of Mark Ryden

Posted in Things We Love

Mark RydenWhen it comes to figurative art, I cannot claim anything more than basic knowledge and, most certainly, I am not clued in to what is hip. Marie, my friend and “informal” art consultant, who lives and breathes art as her day job, often points out painters, sculptors or photographers I might find of interest. During our latest beach walk, she encouraged me to go see the latest Mark Ryden’s show at the Kohn Gallery in Hollywood.

“Just get past the hype. I think you will like it”

I am not sure I ever mentioned to her I am partial to kitsch. This Mark Ryden, then, was pretty much up my alley. Serendipitously, it was only a couple of days later that an article in the New York Times clued me in to the fact that Mark Ryden is a Hollywood darling and that Leonardo DiCaprio and Francois Pinault collect his works which, incidentally, sell for between $100,000 to $2,000,000. Kinda out of my price bracket, although Mr. Ryden makes wallpaper and posters available to the masses.

Mark Ryden
Cone of Memory

I have since learnt that Mr. Ryden is the grandfather of a so-called Lowbrow Pop Surrealism I didn’t quite know existed, and that his meat paintings have been one Lady Gaga’s inspiration for one meat outfit. All quite interesting and a bit voyeuristic. Like his paintings, really.

Beyond the oversized doll heads and the sometimes surreal subject matter, lie uncommon technical skills and a passion for the detail (Mark Ryden received a BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena). You can lose yourself staring at the minutiae, a bit like losing oneself in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. The intricate frames are also conceived by the artist.

Pop culture, childhood memories and onirical images all mix together, often drawing us back into the work of French classicists. A Daily Beast review aptly describes the subjects as “Betty Boop figures reconstituted as heroines from the Jane Austen period.”

As to the meat fascination, Mr. Ryden explores the disconnect between meat as food and the animals it is sourced from: “I suppose it is this contradiction that brings me to return to meat in my art.”

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8 Comments

  1. I wasn’t familiar with him, but I love his style. Quirky and just a little bit disturbing in some hard to pin down way. Thanks for sharing!

    June 6, 2014
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  2. I love his work… now if only I could afford one for the lounge wall *deep sigh* 😉
    *goes to check lotto ticket*

    June 6, 2014
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    • Why does that apply to most art I see? And somehow I can never make do with a poster.

      June 6, 2014
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      • oh I know…posters just aren’t the same. Time to save up!

        June 6, 2014
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  3. Definitely my kind of art! My hubby would probably wrap it up and hide it in the garage, like I did with his Giuseppe Arcimboldo freak-ass fruit and veg face paintings!

    June 6, 2014
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    • I hear you. My husband is in denial about my choices in contemporary art – while I ban any of his god awful pastoral scenes from our house.

      June 6, 2014
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