Guess Who Showed Up at Mark Ryden’s Latest Art Show?

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Susan Michals

 

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(Artist Mark Ryden in front of his truly movable art feast, “Memory Lane.” Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery/Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan)

It may have been 90 degrees last night but that didn’t stop Leo from weighing in on Mark Ryden’s latest foray into the past “The Gay 90’s West.”

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(Leonardo DiCaprio with artist Mark Ryden (left), Kohn gallery manager Samantha Glaser, and Tyler the Creator. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery/Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan)

There’s not one person I know who hasn’t said at one time or another, “I wish I lived in another time.” Mark Ryden decided long ago not to just yearn for it, but live it, in his own artistic way.

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(Mark Ryden and fellow artist/wife Marion Peck celebrate his new show in full 1890’s regalia. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery/Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan)


Coming to support him were a myriad of patrons, collectors and friends, ranging from the aforementioned Mr. DiCaprio, to Jason “Orange is the New Black” Biggs,Tyler the Creator,“Weird Al” Yankovic, MOCA board members Bill and Maria Bell, Frances Bean Cobain, and fellow artists Gary Baseman, RETNA, and Camille Rose Garcia.

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(Artist Camille Rose Garcia and Frances Bean Cobain. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery/Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan)

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(RETNA gets his groove on. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery/Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan)

Friday night marked two important moments in the L.A. art scene. First, Mark Ryden gave us his first show in nearly four years, “The Gay 90’s West.” This show was the follow-up, or rather, the continuation of Ryden’s seminal show “The Gay 90s: Olde Tyme Art Show” which opened back in 2010 at Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC. Secondly, Ryden’s gallerist Michael Kohn debuted his long awaited, 12,000 square foot new space on Highland for the event. Walls were painted a deep antique rose, and provided the perfect hue for Ryden’s collection of works, including perhaps his most ambitious – and largest – work to date: “The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery)” which weighs in at a whopping “96 x 120.”

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(Mark Ryden’s “The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery)” Image courtesy of Susan Michals)

Influenced by Ingres and Robert Crumb, Ryden has become the poster child of the lowbrow art movement, and was dubbed the godfather of pop surrealism by Interview Magazine. But Ryden is also the king of camp, and gives us a beautifully comforting yet sometimes freakishly unnerving point of view into the opulent world of kitsch.

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(Patrons take in another Rydenian masterpiece. Image courtesy of Susan Michals)

The “Gay 90s” is a term that was invented in the 1920s and refers to the utopian image of American life in the simpler times at the end of the 19th century. For the burgeoning population of the big cities in the United States during the Roaring Twenties, the “Gay 90s” was a symbol of a less chaotic life, of an insulated and prosperous country untouched by world wars, when the population of rural America was still greater than the urban one. But 100 years later, around 1990, not only did the term “Gay 90s” no longer conjure an escape to the 19th century, but rather, its image as an idyllic respite was no longer the paradigm of the Golden Life. Ryden’s work is a painterly confabulation of the era – where cliché is not only okay, it is embraced and reconfigured in the sometimes disturbing Rydenian landscape.

At times Ryden’s art is unnerving; but it does what art is supposed to do – evoke emotion, good or bad. By taking us back in time and wrapping it up in a velvety blanket of colorful kitsch, he reminds not to forget our past but to embrace it – meat dress and all.

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(Mark Ryden’s “Meat Dress” porcelain sculpture. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery.)

Mark Ryden: “The Gay 90’s West”
May 3 through June 28, 2014
Kohn Gallery, 1227 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038,

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