Perrotin and Kasmin are delighted to announce a jointly organized exhibition of new works by American painter Mark Ryden (b.1963, United States). Featuring over forty works from the artist’s latest series, Anima Animals will present a portrait gallery of enchanted characters that embody the artist’s meticulously-realized, signature blend of archetype, kitsch, and narrative mysticism. This also marks the artist’s first solo show in China.
Ryden’s modern mythologies inseparably interweave twin senses of comfort and menace. His are scenes that exist in the ambiguous space between these two realms, in which nostalgia—and by extension memory, even death—are ever-present.
The characters’ otherworldly demeanors found within are inspired by the idiosyncratic and playfully proportioned faces of 1950s vintage plush animal toys. Whilst many of these creatures present a benevolent smile framed by soft tendrils of candy-colored fur, saccharine curls, roses, and silk bows, a darker tension lies just under the surface, hinting at the haunting resonance of the subconscious.
“The origins of this series goes all the way back to a painting I did about twenty years ago, the central piece of my first solo exhibition, The Meat Show. The painting, Snow White, included an important figure, a special divine messenger who visits a reclining feminine subject. Manifesting this messenger was a considerable struggle for me. The decision of what form he would take was not an arbitrary one, not a simple matter of a surreal juxtaposition to other elements in the composition; it was an important and subtle choice of character. This isn’t the kind of decision an artist can make by ‘thinking’ their way to the answer.”
“The answer finally came to me while browsing a flea market, a place I find much of my inspiration. When my eyes fell upon a scruffy old stuffed rabbit with a rubber face, I knew with complete certainty that it was the divine being I was searching for. Ever since, variations of this character have been showing up in my paintings, and I have also amassed a large collection of these vintage rubber faced plushies.”
If your eyes are open, you can see the face of the divine wherever you look. I found the face of the divine in a tattered stuffed animal radiating the inner light of kitsch.
“The first work I created for this series is called Salvator Mundi. My painting is a response to a piece attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, which was recently part of a sensational auction. I find it absolutely fascinating that a relatively humble object, a piece of wood simply painted with an image by an artist, would be valued at almost half a billion dollars. How could that object hold such unfathomable value? It was the creation of an individual taking wood and paint and making something that transcends those simple physical materials; something that shines with the sacred and eternal.”
Mark Ryden, Yoshitomo Nara, and I, among others, belong to a generation of artists who have been facing in the same general direction. What I mean by the ‘same direction’ is that as children, we were baptized in subculture and that experience remains intensely imprinted on each of our beings. When we subsequently began painting in our adolescent years, we also started to study art history while simultaneously developing our painting technique. Once we had full command of both of these, we succeeded in combining historical painting methods with subculture. That, in a nutshell, is our generation.
Ryden’s time-honored, artistic craftsmanship elevates heavily sentimentalized elements of American tradition and antiquity, collected as though for a cabinet of wonders. His labor-intensive canvases deftly rework centuries of art history, combining the grandeur of Spanish and Italian religious painting with the decorative richness of Old Master compositions and the lush textures of French Neoclassicism.
We each travel life’s journey with a spiritual guide. It can appear in different forms, such as an angel, mythical creature or an animal. It can appear in different places, perhaps a meditation or in a vivid dream, or even a flea market. These spirits can give us guidance and provide meaningful insight in our lives. They give us strength and comfort as they share their wisdom and illuminate the path. If you ask, your spiritual animal guide will come to you. Close your eyes, look inward, and ask your Anima Animal to come, then keep your eyes open for a visitation.
Born in 1963 in Medford, Oregon, USA
Lives and works in Portland, Oregon, USA
Mark Ryden received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1987. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a 2016 career-spanning retrospective Cámara de las maravillas at The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo of Málaga, as well as an earlier retrospective Wondertoonel at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art (2004–2005). In 2017 Ryden was commissioned to create the set and costume design for a new production of Whipped Cream, put on by the American Ballet Theatre with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. The drawings, sketches and paintings created by Ryden for the ballet were exhibited concurrently at the Gallery Met located at the Metropolitan Opera House and at Kasmin. Ryden currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
—More about the artist