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Ron English: Skin Deep: Post-Instinctual Afterthoughts on Psychological Portraiture

— July 2011

Associated media

Ron English, Comic Washington © the artist and Lazarides Gallery

From 24 June to 23rd July  Lazarides Gallery, 11 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1HR  will present its first UK exhibition of paintings by American painter, pundit and prankster, Ron English. Spanning multiple mediums, Skin Deep is an exploration of the intersections, discrepancies and synchronicities of personal mythologies on display in our public personas.

Skin Deeppresents multi-layered portraits of some of his most iconic characters, tracing the arc of their inner lives.

Often using his children as models, English chronicles the soul’s sojourn through Pop dioramas of fear and appetite, aspiration and rage. While paying homage to the great art before him, English maintains his very personal point of view, transforming the public to intimate and the universal to specific.

One theme the artist has returned to time and again and features in the show is Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, which English considers to be a modern template, much as the Madonna and Child is an ancient one. English approaches the ‘Guernica’ template cognizant of its significance as visual shorthand for the overwhelming and gratuitous horror of modern war.

He says, 'I have put my own spin on Guernica more than 50 times, using different characters and mirroring the composition more or less faithfully in various versions, but I am always riffing on the same basic message—that cultural bias is embedded in our narrative. My Guernicas call attention to the product placement of global corporate culture, using war as entertainment and entertainment as war.'

Using a mixture of imagery, medium and process referenced from great masters such as Warhol, Pollack and Picasso, combined with irreverent cherry-picking of populist totems from fast food to cartoons, English creates complex running narratives of his many alter-egos butting headfirst into the Grand Illusion, where unstated cultural norms are exposed and analysed.

In addition to his fine art painting, English is widely considered a catalytic figure in the advancement of street art away from traditional wild-style lettering and into clever statement and masterful trompe l’oeil based art. Creating illegal murals and billboards that blend stunning visuals with biting political, consumerist and surrealist statements, English has hijacked public space worldwide for the sake of art.                                                                                 

Ron English

Ron English lives and works in Los Angeles. One of the most prolific artists alive today, Ron English has bombed the global landscape with 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, including MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in the hit movie Supersize Me, and Abraham Obama, the fusion of America’s 16th and 44th Presidents, an image widely discussed in the US media as directly affecting the 2008 election. 

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