Nov 16, 2011


Ron English, Short Shelf Life, October 2011
     “Ron English has bombed the global landscape with unforgettable images, on the street, in museums, in movies, books and television. English coined the term POPaganda to describe his signature mash-up of high and low cultural touchstones, from superhero mythology to totems of art history, populated with his vast and constantly growing arsenal of original characters...” -
     Ron English is a Pop Artist (or rather, pop-surrealist) who works in a variety of media from paint to video and combines cultural icons with a sort of scathing, critical view of the world and an obsession with the macabre and almost carnivalesque. His work does not really follow a single style or theme, rather, the work is pretty conceptual, built around what the message is; however it often includes some concept of high- and low-culture, juxtaposing references to artists like Andy Warhol and Picasso up against icons like Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald.

A master of mash-up, English has consistently delivered an impressive and prolific body of work that's earned him the title of "the greatest living artist" in Morgan Spurlock's film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold(2011).-
A recent work, Short Shelf Life, are prints that are designed to be pasted over cereal boxes in stores, if found, the viewer is to retrieve the piece, mail it to Ron and he will sign it - although more often than not, the piece ends up on the desk of some middle manager at a reigonal office for whatever store it was dropped at. The prints feature pudgy depictions the mascots that bring you your daily balanced breakfast alongside harsh accusations of the product, or mascots participated in acts of violence, threatening or intimidating. Ron's street art has a sort of “stick-it-to-the man,” almost “fuck you, mom” attitude to it, and at the same time shows a sort of illumination, an insight into the world behind the curtain of many of these products.

Ron English, Ben is on the Money, Oil on Canvas, 2011
Ron is also known for his comic collages and renditions of Picasso's Guernica. For the former, he will take old comics, make a background out of them, and then paint over the whole thing with really detailed brushwork, fluid colors and expert manipulation of space and line to manipulate the viewers perception of space. When the piece is complete, the painting really jumps off the page, almost looking like a three-dimensional image in front of a flat background. For the latter, he has created a trilogy out of Picasso's masterpiece, all comic collages that pop-up, and all playing on the same theme. Xray Division is a rendition of Guernica where all the figures are skeletons outlined in flesh, Graveyard Guernica is a rendition where the figures are simply skeletons, Ghosts of Guernica is a rendition where the skeleons have outlined flesh and organs such as eyes drawn in the skulls. The three have similar but different color palettes and the three all have different amounts of news print in the background, the first having the most, and then gradually using less in each piece afterward. This is a continuation of Picasso's work in a way, it is a sort of memorial to our wars as Guernica was a memorial to the bombed Spanish town, he handles the angles well and it carries a synthetic cubist look of a collage, although it isn't really.

Ron English, X-Ray Division, Oil on Canvas (Pop Up), 2010
He works in almost every medium, and is very prolific in his work. He prints posters for bands, album art for bands, has vinyl toys or casts, paints murals, and evn performance art. He is influenced heavily by pop artists that came before him, especially Andy Warhol, and his works show it, often featuring unnatural or muted colors, executed with almost machinelike precision, with his own hand showing up in the surreal additions he makes to his models, his figures are mostly pudgy or fat with unnatural aspects to them, a mouth that is too wide and toothy or udders for breasts, many works have skulls for heads, and the pictures have an unnatural light source and seem to glow on their own, in a way. His works kind of look like they belong in a pubescent teenager's room or at a seedy bar, and in a way he has made both pop art and street art his own, influencing them as much as they influenced him.
In an interview he was quoted as saying “(I think) Capitalism [should be replaced with] cooperation” and it shows in his works through his sort of warped renditions of common pop icons.

- Eric Gustafson


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