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Mark Ryden: Dodecahedron

Paul Kasmin Gallery - New York

By Taliesin Thomas

The art of Los Angeles-based painter Mark Ryden (born 1963, Oregon) is redolent of an Aristotelian fairytale: themes such as sense and sensibilia, memory, dreams, divination, physics and physiognomy blend together to illustrate Ryden’s metaphysical musings and his aesthetic forays into the complex realms of fantastical sciences. The result of his explorations in paint and other mediums reveal a world of magical iconography that connects corporeal realities with mysterious modes of being. Similar to Aristotle’s singular contribution to philosophy, Ryden’s work glows in a category all its own.

Ryden’s second exhibition at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, “Dodecahedron,” features the artist’s first-ever bronze sculpture, eight new paintings, drawings and a porcelain edition. The title of this show encapsulates the ethos of Ryden’s continued investigation of natural phenomena and the beauty of earthly energies; the geometric structure of a dodecahedron is a solid figure whose 12-sided perfection and symmetry has been the inspiration for extensive inquiry by mathematicians since ancient times. Math seems to have a considerable influence on the artist-paintings such as Chroma Structure 113 (2015) and Dymaxion Principle (2015) feature bewitched figures who sit confronting arithmetic objects floating in the air set against lush environs.

Mark Ryden, Aurora, 2015, oil on canvas, 112” x 58.” Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Mark Ryden, Aurora, 2015, oil on canvas, 112” x 58.” Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Recurrent topics in Ryden’s work invite the viewer into spheres of the occult and the uncanny. Each piece thoughtfully illustrates an orchestrated moment of discovery that imbues his art with a distinctly mythological and erudite quality. The crown jewel of the exhibition, Aurora (2015), is a sumptuous oil painting of an angelic girl half submerged in a body of water abounding with enchanting sea creatures. Her silvery hair and white skin are contrasted by the darkness of the briny deep below. The frame of this particular painting is itself a work of art and adds a touch of rococo to this already exquisite vision (Ryden has been known to collaborate with Thai wood carvers to create the intricate casings for his paintings).

Ryden’s particular knack for bringing inanimate objects to life combined with his synthesis and juxtaposition of visual debris from the disparate realms of science, mythology and contemporary pop culture expose an imaginative “cabinet of curiosities” replete with specimens that incite wonder and awe. He draws inspiration from treasures of every variety-old toys, photographs, anatomical models, stuffed animals, skeletons, religious statues and various forms of ephemera serve as the models for his art while the occasional Hollywood icon plays a cameo role for figurative reference (for over a decade Ryden made his living as a commercial artist and created numerous album covers, including Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ One Hot Minute). While Ryden’s art merges universal symbols with hauntingly beautiful characters that appear to emerge from divine sources, the alchemy of his art provokes an enigmatical feeling that lingers in the psyche long after.

(December 10, 2015 - January 23, 2016)

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