Born in Medford, Oregon 1963
Lives and works in Portland, Oregon
Blending themes of pop culture with techniques reminiscent of the old masters, Mark Ryden has created a singular style that blurs the traditional boundaries between high and low art. His work first garnered attention in the 1990s when he ushered in a new genre of painting, "Pop Surrealism,” dragging a host of followers in his wake. Ryden has trumped the initial surrealist strategies by choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation.
Ryden’s vocabulary ranges from cryptic to cute, treading a fine line between nostalgic cliché and disturbing archetype. Seduced by his infinitely detailed and meticulously glazed surfaces, the viewer is confronted with the juxtaposition of the childhood innocence and the mysterious recesses of the soul. A subtle disquiet inhabits his paintings; the work is achingly beautiful as it hints at darker psychic stuff beneath the surface of cultural kitsch. In Ryden's world cherubic girls rub elbows with strange and mysterious figures. Ornately carved frames lend the paintings a baroque exuberance that adds gravity to their enigmatic themes.
Mark Ryden received a BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a 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. Ryden was recently 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. Whipped Cream is based on Schlagobers, a two-act ballet with libretto and score by Richard Strauss that was first performed at the Vienna State Opera in 1924. The Art of Whipped Cream exhibited at the Paul Kasmin Gallery and at the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera House in 2017.