Art in Review
Mark Ryden: ‘The Gay 90s: Old Tyme Art Show’
By KEN JOHNSON
Published: May 6, 2010
|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.
Jesus puts in an appearance in “The Piano Player,” wherein he caresses the ivories of a pink piano as three blondes whose heads are considerably larger than his recline on the instrument’s lid. In a watercolor-tinted graphite drawing called “Riding With the Lord,” the Man of Sorrows, with crown of thorns, takes a back seat to a girl in a Victorian bonnet and gown on a bicycle built for two.
Such zany pictures hint at what creepy psychic stuff might pullulate beneath the sentimental, nostalgic and naïve surface of modern kitsch.