BORN IN MEDFORD, OREGON 1963
CURRENTLY LIVES AND WORKS IN PORTLAND, OREGON
Blending themes of pop culture with techniques reminiscent of the old masters, Mark Ryden has devised a singular style that blurs traditional boundaries. His work first garnered attention in the 1990s as he ushered in a new genre of painting, "Pop Surrealism”, which developed the scope and spirit of the 20th century surrealism by embellishing its vocabulary with contemporary cultural references.
Ryden’s work exquisitely renders a universe replete with fantastical characters amid enchanted landscapes that embody the artist’s meticulously realized signature blend of archetype, kitsch, and narrative mysticism. Ryden’s modern mythologies inseparably interweave twin senses of comfort and menace. “Most of my work engages with the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world," he has said. 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.
This time-honored, artistic craftsmanship elevates heavily sentimentalized elements of American tradition and antiquity, collected as though for a cabinet of wonders. The 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. His ornately carved frames and meticulously glazed surfaces lend the paintings a baroque exuberance that adds gravity to their enigmatic themes.
Takashi Murakami has said: “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 collaboration with the American Ballet Theatre to reimagine Schlagobers, the Richard Strauss libretto and score first performed at the Vienna State Opera in 1924, places Ryden within a rarefied tradition of visual artists in collaboration with dance. With Whipped Cream, Ryden joins an eminent cadre of artists who have designed sets and costumes for iconic ballet performances. The Art of Whipped Cream was exhibited at Kasmin Gallery and at the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Mark Ryden received his BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a 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. Mark Ryden currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.