Buy Ron English Graffiti Modern Pop Artwork
McDonald’s is not the only example; Mona Lisa, Queen Elizabeth II, Marilyn Monroe, Hulk, Captain America, Mikey Mouse, Darth Vader and Uncle Sam are only some of the characters that Ron English is appropriating, enabling him to establish an open conversation between his art and a great variety of themes, such as the Star Wars universe, the Vietnam War, high art, royalty etc.
The world of Ron English is called Popaganda, a name that he invented, connecting the words Pop and Propaganda, both deeply revealing about the art of English. Pop is a clear reference to Pop Culture, to which he pays homage on multiple levels, not only by infusing his art with common pop art themes (e.g., Marilyn Monroe) but also by incorporating portraits of pop artists themselves (e.g., Andy Warhol). On the other hand, the word Propaganda creates political connotations. Usurpingly, the art of Ron English has frequently been referred to as “anti-corporation propaganda”.
English is highly, unapologetically and irreverently political. This is not based only on the use of specific imagery and themes. In 1982 he surreptitiously reworked on some billboards at risk of arrest in the process. At the same time, his work, since the beginning of his career, has not lost its political edge and continues to incorporate themes related both to old politics, such as Uncle Sam -a clear reference to the Vietnam War- and contemporary politicians, for example, Barack Obama (in Abraham Obama) and Donald Trump (in Trunk). By creating re-worked pieces of such well-known political figures, English becomes instantly political, making the viewers reflect on the choice of the artist to integrate them.
As a result, the visuality of his work is based to a great extent on appropriation and re-working. The re-contextualization of pieces, typically highly commercialized, brings up the following question. Why is Ron English making use of such images? Revisiting artworks of the past is nothing new in the art world. However, it is during the past decades that artists systematically started incorporating imagery, which exists outside of the artistic spectrum, and, at the same time, is closer to the everyday experience, to the “low art” that the masses consume. The distinction between high and low art is holistically present in English’s art, nonetheless, the artist does not seem to consider the one superior to the other. On the contrary, he is honoring pop culture and embraces its extreme commercialism.
In reality, he is weaponizing some archetypical forms of commercialism (e.g., brand logos, public billboards, advertisements), in order to criticize the phenomenon. Through these processes, Ron English has emerged as one of the most prominent figures of cultural jamming. This can be, also seen, as a peculiar form of political and social activism, which draws attention to and, simultaneously, subverts the power of the media and large corporations, which are responsible for the dissemination of the cultural products, which the artist appropriates and parodies.
The relation that Ron English has with his audience is peculiar and multilateral. On the one hand, he manipulates our memory and re-introduces us to the new versions of some of our favorite animations, famous artworks and, even, to the places where we usually eat. Essentially, he is sculpting his works using our collective memory and, in the end, he exposes them to us, unveiling the cultural norms behind them. In other words, his artworks become the mediator of an open conversation between the audience and subjects, like capitalism, war, consumer culture etc.
As a result, the engagement of the audience is encouraged by English, who wants us to reflect on his re-worked versions. After all, the character of his art is both political and social and using his own words “it’s like advertising but creating a different message”.
Naturally, the artist has a vigorous experience with working on public art, from putting up illegal billboards to mural painting. In his personal website, Ron English makes the following observations: “I started doing what has now been branded as street art in the late seventies. To be the artist I wanted to be and to engage the public the way I wanted to do required me to commit quite a few felonies. As far as the society I belong to was concerned, I was an outlaw. But over the years, something changed. My billboard liberations, graffiti, tagging, artistic activities that had the public so unnerved evolved into something new, or maybe the perception towards the art and artists evolved. Artists working on the streets are no longer considered outlaws; they are now street artists. Or, as I prefer to call them: in-laws.” Naturally, English saw that the best way for him to engage the audience is to be as direct as possible and transfer his art to the streets, even if this leads to legal issues. Back in 2003, when asked about his illegal billboards, he had made the following comment: “I guess I'm a criminal. But I don't think I'm a nuisance to society.”.
The work of Ron English generates a series of complex narratives on the basis of the collective memory of the Western civilization, manipulating it into a surrealistic delirium of bright colors and multiple social and political connotations. It is not easy to place his work in a specific spot inside the visual arts spectrum. From prints to oil painting and from re-worked billboards to sculpture, he has experimented with all the media and means, which serve the purposes of his art. At the core of his work exists the engagement that the artist wants to create between the viewers and his art. English is interested in his audience and the cultural products that they consume and reaches the point of criticizing and subverting advertising and consumerism in the mass media. Above all, he is interested in fighting back, for example, war and capitalism, so under this spectrum, his art can be viewed as an act of activism. Using his own words: “While my friends were going to war protests in Washington, I learned to use my powers as an artist, rather than being another person in a big protest.”
Graffiti Modern Urban Art by Ron English Pop Artist Bio, History & Information.
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