Mark Ryden
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The New York Times
The New York Times - 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.

Paul Kasmin
293 10th Avenue, at 27th Street
Through June 5