Pullulating beneath the surface of modern kitsch

Mark Ryden, “The Grinder” (#95), 2010, oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 25 1/2″
Mark Ryden, “Olde Tyme Meats,” 2010, graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 22 x 20 inches;

From Ken Johnson’s review in the NYTimes: Fathered by figures like Big Daddy Roth and Robert Williams, a movement affectionately called Lowbrow by its adherents has been percolating out of the quasi-underground pop culture of Southern California since the 1970s. Lowbrow paintings typically feature illustrative technique and comically weird imagery. Mark Ryden is a master of the style. Painting and drawing with the skill of a Beaux-Arts academician, he creates funny pictures of big-eyed female waifs whose dreamy innocence is bizarrely incongruous with the grotesque situations they are in. The largest painting, at 6 by 4 feet, portrays one of Mr. Ryden’s baby dolls in a misty park wearing a pink party dress that turns out, on closer examination, to be made of slabs of meat and sausages. In a scene set in an old-time outdoor cafe, Lincoln, wearing a loud, green plaid suit, serves a young femme a plate of raw hamburger that he has processed through a meat grinder….Such zany pictures hint at what creepy psychic stuff might pullulate beneath the sentimental, nostalgic and naïve surface of modern kitsch. 

“Mark Ryden: the Gay 90s Olde Tyme Art Show,” Paul Kasmin, New York, NY. Through June 5.

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