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"Mark Ryden - "Bunnies and Bees"
By Grace Glueck

Earl McGrath Gallery
20 West 57th Street, Manhattan
Through Dec. 15, 2001
A relentless kitsch meister working in the tradition of Bosch, Dali and Little Golden Books, Mark Ryden produces painstakingly painted, pastel-colored canvases of less-than-innocent children in surroundings so compulsively packed with nutty detail as to try the eye severely. Bunnies, choice cuts of raw meat, the visage of Abraham Lincoln and sugary religious icons are among his continuing motifs.

In "The Magic Circus (Beth)," a wall-eyed waif with limp red hair and a head disproportionate to her body stands like a jack-in-the-box in a cubicle marked "Meat Show," ringmaster of a bewildering assortment of other children, toys, bunnies, birds, balloons, insects, sea creatures and a statuette of Jesus in a free-for-all extravaganza. A black rabbit upfront makes like Al Jolson, down on one knee with arm outstretched, presumably to sing "Mammy."

"The Ringmaster (Shelly)" depicts Lincoln's top-hatted head with arms and legs coming out of it juggling cuts of meat, as other diversions take place around him. The most sinister work is the simplest: "Little Boy Blue," depicting a tyke on a bike in pink shorts, shirt and cap, with Nazi-style swastikas emblazoned in blue on his cap and sleeve.

A dollop of Mr. Ryden's drollery goes a very long way. Swallow quickly so you don't taste it going down.