Pop Surrealism Maestro Mark Ryden


Mark Ryden was born in Medford, Oregon in 1963. During his childhood years he lived in different locations in the United States—from Lake Tahoe to Longmont, Colorado—having settled in south California where he applied for high school. He received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1987. As a kid, Ryden was already known in class for drawing dogs with their intestines showing and self-portraits with three-eyes. His teachers would disapprove of this, but his family would support him. He quickly found a way to have fun with teachers by simply confusing and scaring them.


His work first garnered attention in the 1990s when he ushered in a new genre of painting, “Pop Surrealism“, dragging a host of followers in his wake. Ryden has trumped the initial surrealist strategies by choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. Ryden’s vocabulary ranges from cryptic to cute, treading a fine line between nostalgic cliché and disturbing archetype. Seduced by his infinitely detailed and meticulously glazed surfaces, the viewer is confronted with the juxtaposition of the childhood innocence and the mysterious recesses of the soul. A subtle disquiet inhabits his paintings; the work is achingly beautiful as it hints at darker psychic stuff beneath the surface of cultural kitsch. In Ryden’s world cherubic girls rub elbows with strange and mysterious figures. Ornately carved frames lend the paintings a baroque exuberance that adds gravity to their enigmatic themes.


Mark Ryden received a BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a retrospective “Wondertoonel” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art, and in the exhibition “The Artist’s Museum” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.


The Piano Player


Olde Tyme Meats


Riding with the Lord






Grotto of the Old Mass




Sophia’s Bubbles


The Magic Circus


Jessica’s Hope


The Ecstasy of Cecelia


The Pumpkin President


Snow White


Night Visit


The Cloven Bunny




Rosie’s Tea Party


Jasper Ridin


The Birth


Corkey Ascending to the Heavens


Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers


The Meat Train


Santa Worm