Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Meat Show - Paintings about children, God and USDA Grade A Beef

[The Butcher Bunny - from "The Meat Show" series. Copyright 2000. Mark Ryden]

[The Meat Magi - from "The Meat Show" series. Copyright 2000. Mark Ryden]

Meet the man, responsible for "Amica" [drawing of Björk], the gory, "Meat Show" and the frenetic "Bunnies & Bees"...Mark Ryden.

Mark Ryden was born on January 20, 1963 in Medford, Oregon, but grew up in Southern California.

He received a B.F.A. in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Mark's paintings instantly trigger a warped deja vu. His work recalls a parallel universe of 1950s Golden Books and the whimsy of Lewis Carroll. His cheery bunnies, rendered in the glowing hues of children's books, are likely to be carving slabs of meat rather than frolicking in the forest. Ryden's work mingles superb technique with outre images to create a world of strange and disturbing beauty. "At once intriguing and unsettling, baffling and enchanting, [Ryden's] works ... are subtle amalgams of many sources and influences as wide-ranging as Psychedelic and Vienna School artists Neon Park and Ernst Fuchs, to classical French formalists Ingres and David." - Rick Gilbert-Panik

Mark was part of a very creative family. His father, Keith, made his living painting, restoring, and customizing cars. Mark's mother, Barbara, while dedicated her life to raising her 5 children, was always busy with a creative project and encouraged her children in the pursuit of art. Mark's older brother KRK, an underground artist notorious in the counter culture, gave Mark an early introduction to art.

Mark's paintings are treasured by collectors from Australia to Sweden. A few of his clients include Stephen King, Leonardo DiCaprio, Patrick Leonard, Ringo Starr, Danny Elfman, Kirk Hammett, Paul Leary, Chris Carter, Don Was, Kidada Jones, Bridget Fonda, Henry Selik and the famous anti-mogul Long Gone John.

Currently, Mark paints high atop a magic castle in Pasadena, California. You can find him late at night in his studio among his many trinkets, statues, skeletons, saints, and old toys that he collects for inspiration.

[quote, Mark Ryden]

Although the Ryden's drawing of Björk did not come from "The Meat Show" series, it was through this disturbing preview of his exhibition here that I found the image of the Icelandic goddess, laying on an alter, surrounded with lush flora.

Björk isn't the only celebrity fantasized in Ryden's psychedelic landscape. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jimi Hendrix and Christina Ricci all feature prominently. Not even popular culture icons like The Teletubbies could escape Ryden's juxtaposed demonic creations.

I am completely fascinated with the imagery Ryden creates in his paintings. His creations are vivid and colourful, often luring the viewer into a false pretense for a closer view. It is only upon closer inspection that reveals an utterly disgusting, yet compulsive image. Ryden's liberal use of innocent children with wholesome, American faces in clean clothing, doing the most heinous acts involving butchery, gluttony and political flattery is appalling. If Ryden is out to shock people out of their comfortable, sterile box, then he has accomplished that.

There is something quite sadistic about the "Grim Reaper" dressed up as a pseudo-icecream man, promoting meat and political propaganda to wondering wide-eyed children. Scratch off the bright colours, the candy-designed truck wheels, and even the oversized bee, and all you will find is the exhaust pipe billowing with smoke, darkened clouds and the "Big Brother" eye on the cap of the "Meat Magi". But yet, I am compelled to view more. Ryden takes us on a magical journey, a landscape filled with blood and texture in nightmarish proportions.

Now, would anyone like a serving of the juiciest cut of meat?


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