Perrotin and Kasmin are delighted to announce a jointly organized exhibition of new works by American painter Mark Ryden (b. 1963, United States). Featuring over twenty works from the artist’s latest series, 'Super Spirit Animals', the eponymous exhibition will be on view at Perrotin’s Shanghai gallery from July 3, 2020. This also marks the artist’s first solo show in China.
Super Spirit Animals presents a portrait gallery of enchanted characters that embody the artist’s meticulously-realised, signature blend of archetype, kitsch, and narrative mysticism. Resplendent with pink-cheeked, wide-eyed divine beings, the works are encased in ornate, hand-carved wooden frames of the artist’s design that function as part of the artwork, extending the traditional limits of the picture plane. The characters’ otherworldly demeanors found within are inspired by the idiosyncratic and playfully proportioned faces of 1950s vintage plush animal toys. Whilst many of these creatures present a benevolent smile framed by soft tendrils of candy-coloured fur, saccharine curls, roses, and silk bows, a darker tension lies just under the surface, hinting at the haunting resonance of the subconscious.
Ryden’s modern mythologies inseparably interweave twin senses of comfort and menace. 'Most of my work engages with the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world,' he has said. His are scenes that exist in the ambiguous space between these two realms, in which nostalgia—and by extension memory, even death—are ever-present. Takashi Murakami has said: 'Mark Ryden, Yoshitomo Nara, and I, among others, belong to a generation of artists who have been facing in the same general direction. What I mean by the ‘same direction’ is that as children, we were baptized in subculture and that experience remains intensely imprinted on each of our beings. When we subsequently began painting in our adolescent years, we also started to study art history while simultaneously developing our painting technique. Once we had full command of both of these, we succeeded in combining historical painting methods with subculture. That, in a nutshell, is our generation.'
Ryden’s time-honored, artistic craftsmanship elevates heavily sentimentalised elements of American tradition and antiquity, collected as though for a cabinet of wonders. His labour-intensive canvases deftly rework centuries of art history, combining the grandeur of Spanish and Italian religious painting with the decorative richness of Old Master compositions and the lush textures of French Neoclassicism.
About the Artist
Mark Ryden received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1987. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a 2016 career-spanning retrospective Cámara de las maravillas at The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo of Málaga, as well as an earlier retrospective Wondertoonel at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art (2004–2005). In 2017 Ryden was commissioned to create the set and costume design for a new production of Whipped Cream, put on by the American Ballet Theatre with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. The drawings, sketches and paintings created by Ryden for the ballet were exhibited concurrently at the Gallery Met located at the Metropolitan Opera House and at Kasmin. Ryden currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
About The Art of Whipped Cream
On the occasion of the exhibition, a fully-illustrated English catalogue The Art of Whipped Cream is available for purchase at Perrotin Kawaii Shop in Shanghai.
Whipped Cream, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in 2017, is the work of internationally renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, for which Ryden created elaborate sets, costumes, and props. Based on a 1924 ballet by Richard Strauss, Whipped Cream tells the story of a boy who finds himself in a delirious world after overdosing on confections. In the 260-page book, Ryden chronicles the entire production of the ballet, from his process sketches, fully realised set designs, and behind-the-scene stories, highlighting the artist’s remarkable imagination. Interviews with the principal dancers and his creative team are also included in the book.
He looked at some photographs from the original production but tried not to be overly influenced by the early designs. Instead, he wanted to incorporate 'the 1920s aesthetic of a Viennese pastry shop in a very general way, and then give it a more modern, surrealist edge,' he said. 'One of the things I really like about the whole production is the contrast between sweet and disturbing—maybe even frightening—elements.'
—The New York Times
Press release courtesy Perrotin.