Perrotin and Kasmin are delighted to present a jointly organized exhibition of new work by American artist Mark Ryden. Animal Secrets comprises 10 paintings and 12 works on paper that further develop the artist’s series of portraiture featuring mysterious and mythical creatures. The resulting gallery of enchanted characters embodies the artist’s meticulously-realized signature blend of archetype, kitsch, and narrative mysticism. Animal Secrets is conceived alongside the artist’s most recent exhibition in Tokyo, Yakalina 9.
Mark Ryden’s imaginative artistic play manifests itself through deep layers of meanings and connotations. His interest in the subject of animals as spiritual entities was first explored in his series, “Anima Animals,” an exhibition presented jointly with Kasmin at Perrotin’s Shanghai gallery. Ryden completed the “Anima Animals” paintings in early 2020, just as the entire world went into Covid lockdown. During this time of isolation in his Pacific-Northwest studio, Ryden began a new series that further explored his reverence for these animal beings that act as guides through a landscape of the unknown. The figures in these paintings are neither human nor animal, they are spiritual entities that create a bridge between the human and animal worlds in which so much disharmony exists.
"It’s important to be in a peaceful state of mind, and then I invite the spirits to come into the studio. I don’t stare into a blank canvas or paper. I look through my various collections of books, toys, statues, photographs and other things, and something will trigger an idea. My studio is packed full of things that inspire me."
The artist’s practice is an ode to craftsmanship and refined materiality, from exquisite pictorial imagery to lavishly carved and embellished frames. At the same time, the artist probes into the invisible and secret order of the universe and interprets the life of things that are filled with spiritual essence. Several works in the exhibition are presented as ‘tavolettas,’ a handheld form common in Italy between the 14th and 17th centuries for devotional instruments of consolation. The Tavoletta series’ composition resembles a full-face representation of Christ and other saints in the tradition of byzantine icons and late medieval portraiture. A figure rendered in a symmetrical pose in the center of the picture directly looks at the viewer. This time-honored, artistic craftsmanship elevates heavily sentimentalized elements of American tradition and antiquity, collected as though for a cabinet of wonders. The laborintensive canvases deftly rework centuries of art history, combining the grandeur of Spanish and Italian religious painting with the layered richness of Old Master compositions.
Ryden’s enigmatic characters dwell in harmony with nature amidst idealized landscapes. His tranquil sceneries evoke the nostalgia of Romantic imagery with a dream of the lost Golden Age from classical antiquity to the present day. The power of this iconography is in its simplicity and balance, where an unavoidable piercing gaze of the mythical entity entices the beholder into a silent conversation. A longing for harmonious coexistence with nature, with each other, and oneself. Anima animals become spiritual guides to connect us with the surrounding world with a sensitive, humanist philosophy.
Born 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.