Son of Pop
May 28 - July 2, 2005
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 2nd, 7-11pm
Private Preview: Saturday, May 28th, 7-11pm
Ron English shares certain pop fascinations with artists like Andy Warhol as well as Jeff Koons. But instead of celebrity, ubiquity and pop luminescence as his subjects, he goes after the aesthetics of mass media by hijacking corporate advertising for his own unabashed ends. Sometimes called the father of "agit-pop" or a "subvertising executive," Ron combines an angry and fed up political sensibility with the tried and true techniques of modern advertising in order to jar viewers into recognizing the suffocating presence of advertising and the assumptions it promotes. According to the New York Times, he was so good at capturing the essence of child friendly tobacco shill Joe Camel, that indeed he was hired to create billboards for the cigarette maker---though he was later fired after it was found he'd concealed skulls in the paintings as some sort of subliminal warning. Ron and his cohorts are known to literally paste over or alter real billboards in urban settings. It's been said that his artwork doesn't so much hang as trespass. "Advertising agencies," says Ron, "are mercenaries, it's about profit. I am about content. I guess I'm a criminal...but I don't think I'm a nuisance to society." In 2004 a documentary about English, called Popaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English portrayed him as a modern Robin Hood of Madison Avenue, infiltrating, perverting, reinventing and satirizing modern culture through the hypodermic delivery device of advertising. In addition to showing at the SF Documentary Festival, this film will show at Varnish on June 11th.
There is much more to look at in a Ron English show than refaced billboard work..from his three-eared, grinning rabbits bopping through the universe bathed in pastels to the veneers and detailing in his reproductions of famous Marilyn Monroe poses, made unsettling by her Mickey Mouse faced breasts.
Each unique piece in this current show is rooted in Ron English originals Marilyn, Little Andy and Cowgirl. Ron worked with master printer Alexander Henrici, who had previously worked with Andy Warhol on his Campbell's Soup Can series, as well as with Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. Each piece in their collaboration was built from the canvas up, with Ron painting layers followed by Alexander's screenings until each image achieved a unique completeness.