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Artist Mark Ryden Brings “The Gay 90s” to Los Angeles

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Interview magazine once called him “the godfather of pop surrealism” and many have heralded him as the king of lowbrow. While those monikers may have turned artist Mark Ryden into an art-world sensation—his work is at once mesmerizing and disquieting; pieces of meat factor often into the vignettes—he remains a humble man, immersed in a magical swirl of odd characters and witty subtext.

On May 3, the new Kohn Gallery space in Los Angeles will debut “Mark Ryden, The Gay 90s: West”—a selection of artworks depicting his singular take on Victorian scenes from the 1890s. “I started working with this theme of the Gay Nineties with the desire to delve head on into the realm of nostalgia and kitsch, which are taboo subjects in the art world,” says Ryden.

Pieces on display are part of a continuation of his first “Gay 90s” show in 2010 at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York. “This second installment began with the same initial motivation as the first… but then the work evolved,” he explains. “I started by playing around with my threshold of nostalgic kitsch, but eventually became fixated on how nostalgia and sentimentality relate to memory and how our consciousness flows through a transitory ‘present moment’ between past and future.”

For Ryden, this was no small undertaking. And, fortunately for the artist, Kohn’s new location is more than double the size of its last—perfect for displaying his most sizable work yet: “The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery),” a 96-by-120-inch painting captured in a wooden frame hand-carved in bas-relief. Through June 28; 1227 N. Highland Ave.; kohngallery.com.

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