Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Questions with RON ENGLISH

I have to confess, I'm guilty. I've surrendered my cash (and health) to just about all the monsters that Ron English relentlessly wages art war on. I haven't been to a McDonald's in years, but when I drive by one I can still taste the Quarter Pounder With Cheese, and the oily fries. I own a few Disney movies on Blu-Ray. I smoke. When I was thirteen, I was a card carrying member of the KISS ARMY. Guilty as sin.

Having said that, I'm also aware enough to see the blistering truth in English's work. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of the most important artists working today. I assume anyone reading this blog already knows who Ron English is. He's among the finest guerilla artists of our time. His solo show "Seasons In Superbia" at the Corey Helford Gallery was the best exhibit I saw last year. He was just immortalized on The Simpsons for chrissakes! So, you can imagine my excitement when he answered the phone and agreed to do "5 Questions". Here's the thing though, if you had a chance to ask Goya five questions, it wouldn't be enough. You'd immediately want five more, and five more after that...and on and on. So I may have to start a new "5 More Questions" feature soon.

At any rate, here's how it went:

1) Your transition from photographer to "hyper-realist" painter seemed to happen effortlessly, and at lightning speed. Was there much of a learning curve, or were you able to hone your painting skills without much struggle?
Ron: Someone once told me that if you can draw, you can paint. I had been drawing photorealistic pieces on cardboard and staging them as environments in my photographs. I thought painting would be easy. The first painting I ever made, I sold. It was of Saint Basel's Cathedral. I was eight. A teacher bought it to show her students what an eight year old could do. But as far as New York Art World level painting, I really wasn't on terra firma until I was around 30 years old, four years after I began my quest to become a painter. I still struggle.

2) Have Disney and/or McDonald's ever tried to hire you?
Ron: I did art for The ESPN Zone in NYC. It was a series of 30 paintings that were mash-ups of art history and sports history. I also did a colab Stitch figure with Disney and a colab Mad Hatter figure. I brought 40 clowns to lunch at McDonald's, but they didn't try to hire me then or ever. Do you have any contacts at McDonald's? I was just thinking my little fat Ronalds would go good in Happy Meals. I'm sure they would be all about that.

3) Are you a KISS fan, or do you consider them emblematic of the insidious culture of branding?
Ron: Well, they probably merched out better than any band since The Beatles. Actually they probably have more merch than The Beatles ever dreamed of and you can bet your bottom dollar Gene gets his fair share of the profits. If I were a young band I would study my Kisstory.  It's really hard to make money off your music these days and having a lot of collectable merch available could help a lot. Personally I love little collectable chotchkies and would be pretty stoked if a band I love like MSI released little characters of themselves designed by an artist like Tara McPherson or Jeremy Fish. That would be cool, right?  I have a toy coming out with Chris Brown and a bust with Slash this year. I would love to do something with The Apples in Stereo or The Dandy Warhols. I have a band too, The Electric Illuminati. Maybe I should listen to my own advice and do an EI toy!

4) There was a painting in SEASONS IN SUPERBIA that had a tiny little Warhol skull framed and hanging inside a doll house. There were these little white blotches across it. It's really been bugging me. Was that an accident...or am I missing your intent?
Ron: It is supposed to be reflections from lit windows in another building. Probably too confusing.

5) Assuming you have an iPod, what song has the highest play count?
Ron: The Eels' "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues".

Thanks Ron!
All photos taken at The Corey Helford Gallery by KrossD