When 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.
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.”