Mark Ryden came to preeminence in the 1990’s during a time when many artists, critics and collectors were quietly championing a return to the art of painting. With his masterful technique and disquieting content, Ryden quickly became one of the leaders of this movement on the West Coast.
Upon first glance Ryden’s work seems to mirror the Surrealists’ fascination with the subconscious and collective memories. However, Ryden transcends the initial Surrealists’ strategies by consciously choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. His dewy vixens, cuddly plush pets, alchemical symbols, religious emblems, primordial landscapes and slabs of meat challenge his audience not necessarily with their own oddity but with the introduction of their soothing cultural familiarity into unsettling circumstances.
Viewers are initially drawn in by the comforting beauty of Ryden’s pop-culture references, then challenged by their circumstances, and finally transported to the artist’s final intent – a world where creatures speak from a place of childlike honesty about the state of mankind and our relationships with ourselves, each other and our past.
Clearly infused with classical references, Ryden’s work is not only inspired by recent history, but also the works of past masters. He counts among his influences Bosch, Bruegel and Ingres with generous nods to Bouguereau and Italian and Spanish religious painting.
Over the past decade, this marriage of accessibility, craftsmanship and technique with social relevance, emotional resonance and cultural reference has catapulted Ryden beyond his roots and to the attention of museums, critics and serious collectors. Ryden’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a recent museum retrospective “Wondertoonel” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Mark Ryden currently lives and works in Los Angeles where he paints slowly and happily amidst his countless collections of trinkets, statues, skeletons, books, paintings and antique toys.
I think his work is very refreshing, disturbing to some people, but very familiar when looking at other surrealist artists from past decades. Bosch and Bruegel are two of my favourites.