The Imaginary Realm of Mark Ryden

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Fascinated with bunnies, beauties, bees, and meat, Mark Ryden makes magical paintings and drawings inspired by pop culture, old masters, and mythical archetypes. A master draughtsman and impeccable painter, Ryden creates visual fantasies that are oddly populated by wide-eyed femme fatales, Abe Lincoln, Colonel Sanders, and Jesus. A cult figure in his own right, the California-based artist counts Stephen King, Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Elfman, Bridget Fonda, and Jake Gyllenhaal among his celebrity collectors and has designed album covers for Ringo Starr, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Butthole Surfers, and Michael Jackson.

Now Ryden is ready to take New York by storm. His whimsically titled exhibition, The Gay 90’s: Old Tyme Art Show, which features five new oil paintings and more than a dozen new drawings and preliminary sketches, opens at Paul Kasmin Gallery on April 29 and runs through June 5. Exploring the idealism of the 1890s—filtered through the nostalgic and kitsch investigation of the period in the 1960s—Ryden has Lincoln grinding meat for an Alice in Wonderland-type lassie, Jesus playing a pink grand piano for a bevy of young blondes, and a sexy siren in a dress made from cuts of meat and sausage links in a classical garden. Enchanting and surreal, Ryden’s works entertain the eye while provoking us to consider the poetic possibilities of mining the past.

Mark Ryden, Incarnation (#100), 2009. Oil on panel, 72 x 48 inches / 182.9 x 121.9 cm, framed: 86 1/2 x 63 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches / 219.7 x 161.3 x 11.4 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Olde Tyme Meats, 2010. Graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 22 x 20 inches / 55.9 x 50.8 cm, framed: 28 3/8 x 26 3/8 inches / 72.1 x 67 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, The Piano Player, 2010. Oil on canvas with hand carved frame, hand painted by the artist, 20 x 30 inches / 50.8 x 76.2 cm, framed: 29 x 39 x 3 inches / 73.7 x 99.1 x 7.6 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Daisy, 2010. Graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 17 x 14 inches / 43.2 x 35.6 cm, framed: 23 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches / 59.4 x 51.8 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Isabelle, 2010. Graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 19 x 20 inches / 48.3 x 50.8 cm, framing: 25 3/8 x 26 3/8 inches / 64.5 x 67 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden,  Josephine, 2010. Graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 20 x 15 inches / 50.8 x 38.1 cm, framing: 26 3/8 x 21 3/8 inches / 67 x 54.3 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, The Grinder, 2010. Oil on canvas with hand carved frame, hand painted by the artist, 37 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches / 95.3 x 64.8 cm, framed: 56 x 32 x 3 1/2 inches / 142.2 x 81.3 x 8.9 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Catherine, 2010. Graphite and watercolor on paper, 20 x 15 inches / 50.8 x 38.1 cm, framed: 26 3/8 x 21 3/8 inches / 67 x 54.3 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Virgin and Child, 2010. Oil on canvas with hand carved frame, hand painted by the artist, 24 x 18 inches / 61 x 45.7 cm, framed: 29 x 23 x 3 inches / 73.7 x 58.4 x 7.6 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Riding with the Lord, 2010. Graphite on paper with watercolor washes, 21 x 22 inches / 53.3 x 55.9 cm, framed: 27 3/8 x 28 3/8 inches / 69.5 x 72.1 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Pink Lincoln, 2010. Oil on canvas with hand carved frame, hand painted by the artist, 22 x 16 inches / 55.9 x 40.6 cm, framed: 55 x 34 x 3 inches / 139.7 x 86.4 x 7.6 cm. © Mark Ryden. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Portrait of Mark Ryden in his LA studio. Courtesy of Ann Cutting.