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The Gay 90's

  • Kohn Gallery LA
April 22, 2014
Ana Bambic Kostov is an art historian with passion for contemporary art.

The ‘Gay 90’s’ term was coined in the 1920s, referring to the idealistic image of American life in the more honest and uncomplicated era of the late 19th century. The 1920s were seen as Roaring, while the Gay 90’s became a symbol of a calmer life, prosperity and rural happiness. After a century, at the beginning of 1990s, the Gay 90s term could not be used in the same sense any longer, as the Golden Life was anything but a parallel of the recent period. The 19th century culture, aesthetics and style were greatly forgotten by the seekers of the modernity. Mark Ryden explores this golden period in his work, bringing back its emblems in the deliberately kitschy artwork. Exploring the cultural scope of our age, he employs the aesthetics of the Gay 90s era evoking kitsch, idealization and utopism of the long lost fragment of vintage pop culture. Mark Ryden’s latest body of work including paintings, works on paper, installations and sculpture will be shown in an inauguration of a new, ample space of Michael Kohn Gallery. The exhibition titled The Gay 90s: West opens on May 3, continuing through June 28, 2014.

Kohn Gallery LA
Mark Ryden – The Parlor, 2012

West Exhibition

The upcoming exhibition will present the largest and the most ambitious work of Mark Ryden so far – The Parlor, a monumental 96 x 120 inch painting, set in a hand-carver wooden frame. The allegories and scenes Ryden depicts in this and other works investigate true values behind the clichés of the topical era, representing signature imagery of the period such as big bows, large wheeled bicycled, period dresses and hairstyles. His paintings are polished to perfection in concordance with the neoclassical painting the artist is inspired by. Among artistic influences of Mark Ryden, one can find the French luminary Ingres standing along the modern pioneer of comic, Robert Crumb. Driven by seemingly opposing forces, Ryden portrays our love and hate relationship with kitsch and nostalgia, challenging the accepted norms of taste. The Gay 90s: West exhibition continues the concept of his previous show The Gay 90s: Olde Tyme Art Show from 2010 at the Kasmin Gallery in New York.

Kohn Gallery LA
Mark Ryden – Medium Yams, 2012

Victorian Era

Ryden’s paintings take the observer back to the ostentatious Victorian era, the idyllic America that welcomed small business development and immigration, vaudeville theater and somewhat Gothic atmosphere. He often fuses known historical and religious figures, rendering his own version of the American history. His works are executed in what would be considered the best painterly tradition of the era, polished and representative, while retaining the slight eeriness in the overall atmosphere. The show at the Kohn Gallery will encompass Ryden’s famed painting of a meat dress (Yes, the Gaga outfit), tited Incarnation from 2009, along with a site specific installation produced with recycled and made objects relating to the general theme of the series.

Kohn Gallery LA
Mark Ryden – Incarnation, 2009

Kohn Gallery

Mark Ryden show will introduce a new space of the Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles located in 1227 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood. The building was designed by architect Lester Tobias, designated to be the ideal exhibiting space. The new gallery had 22 feet high ceilings enabling monumental pieces of art to be shown, while great glass window and numerous skylights allow an abundance of natural light inside. Kohn Gallery will put the newly constructed space towards continuation of their mission, presenting exhibitions by established and emerging artists alike.

Kohn Gallery LA
Mark Ryden – Sweetheart, 2011