The Tree Show
March 10 – April 28, 2007
The Michael Kohn Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Los Angeles artist, Mark Ryden. Following his previous themed exhibitions, “The Meat Show,” 1998, “Bunnies and Bees,” 2001, and “Blood,” 2003, Ryden has created “The Tree Show.” The theme of this exhibition will center upon Nature, specifically trees, nymphs, and creatures of the forest, bringing together again Ryden’s trademark of disquieting content and masterful technique.
Long admired by a vast audience for his paintings that combine imagery from a wide variety of sources, Ryden brings together a style influenced by children’s book illustrations of the 1940s, underground comics of the 1960s and 70s, arcane symbols from antiquity, and personages from popular culture. And equally important as the roots of the imagery is the painting technique. Ryden has taken his visual clues from Renaissance old masters for composition and decorative richness (Bellini, Cranach, Bosch, Bruegel, Spanish and Italian religious painting), and appropriated the idealized textures of skin and fabric from 19th century Neo-Classical paintings like Ingres, David, and Bouguereau. The landscape details of a Ryden painting recall the beauty of Martin Johnson Heade and the grandeur of Poussin. The result is a strange and sometimes challenging, but always hauntingly beautiful work of art steeped in the lessons of art history.
Over the last decade a type of Mannerist figuration has emerged within the contemporary art world. Such artists as John Currin make paintings that depict the human figure as attenuated, inspired directly from 16th century artists like Parmagianino and Cranach. Others, say Lisa Yuskavitch, rely on the more recent tradition of pin-up girls as inspiration for her work. Whatever the source material, along with Ryden, these artists constitute a distinct school of contemporary art.
For “The Tree Show,” Ryden has once again chosen a subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. The exhibition includes major paintings with artist-created frames, as well as paintings on cut logs, and an installation of objects which all relate to Nature and trees specifically. Ryden’s fascination with this subject matter issues from his interest and concern of ecological matters as well as the depiction of trees as the central image of a classical landscape. Juxtaposing elements of cultural familiarity with unsettling circumstances, these paintings portray a world where creatures speak from a place of childlike honesty about the state of mankind.
To date, Ryden’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a recent solo exhibition, “Wondertoonel,” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Mark Ryden was born in Medford, Oregon. He received a BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, where he paints slowly and happily amidst his countless collections of trinkets, statues, skeletons, books, paintings, and antique toys.