Ron English : the legend of subversive street art
30 May 2017
The 2017 edition of Mural Festival will bring us the American artist Ron English. The career of this legendary artist is hard to resume as it is so prolific.
Everything and everywhere are appropriate words to describe this phenomenon. Indeed, because if Mr English is everywhere it is because he uses all the possible medias to make himself seen and heard. The artist loves to express himself, high up and full of colours, his opinions and positions are often political.
By using and modifying images of consumer society and modern capitalism to denounce their ridicule, he is at the origin of the POPaganda movement.
Very early on in his career, Ron put mostly American pop culture icons at the centre of his work, to promote awareness and reflection on what is happening on the other side of the mirror.
© Nickie Robinson
The Statue of Liberty, the Smiley face, SpongeBob Square Pants, Hello Kitty, superheroes, Mickey Mouse, Disney stars and The Simpsons are only some examples of the beloved characters of the artist.
« Temper Tot », based on his famous « Incredible Hulk Boy » is without a doubt one of his most recognizable characters.
And without forgetting his epic « MC Supersized », a Ronald McDonald pictured as a round Buddha figure, which appeared in the movie « Supersize Me » and which was also the subject of the iOS application « SuperSizeme ».
© Marie-Eve Heinkelé © Popaganda.com
Ron English is one of the most productive artist of his time. Born in 1966, he contributed in a significant way to the evolution of the artistic universe of street art and has been shuffling the norms since the 80’s.
He uses all artistic medias and means possible such as posters, stickers, colouring books, toys, sculptures, cereal boxes to disseminate his work and messages. He also paints on canvases as well as huge murals indoor or outdoor.
New York is his favourite area. But as we mentioned earlier, Ron English is everywhere. He travelled across the world and participated in numerous events in the United States as well as internationally. Amsterdam, Art Basel Miami, Berlin, Brazil, Dubai, Milan, Nu Art (Norway), PowWow Hawaii (Honolulu), Japan, Soviet Union, Wynwood, are only a few examples of the global odyssey of this outstanding artist.
In April 2017, he participated in the Art4WTC event happening on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center and in May he realized a huge installation in China, an installation that only lasted a few hours before the Chinese government judged it too subversive.
© Nickie Robinson
Even though his work has been exposed in galleries and museums worldwide, Mr English still has a particular inclination for illegal art. His numerous activities of re appropriation of billboards can not be ignored.
He gave interviews and was the subject of many articles in well-known art and street art magazines such as Graffiti Art, Hi-Fructose and also Juxtapoz for which he was in charge of a special edition dedicated to politics and art in November 2012.
On top of traditional media, Ron uses every opportunity offered by social medias and new medias. He leaves nothing aside. Adding to his regular presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others, he also has his own podcast on Itunes and a YouTube channel.
During the 2015 edition of the SXSW conference in Austin, he organized a treasure hunt using a mobile application inspired by Pokemon Go, the Ron English PopApp. One of the prizes consisted in a trip on board the POPaganda bus which featured a rolling exhibition of the artist’s work.
On the political side, he created the famous Abraham Obama image which travelled the world during President Obama’s first campaign in 2008.
In 2016, he participated to the Artists for Bernie Sanders campaign and revealed his opposition to the current President by launching his Trumpty Dumpty.
What else can be said… he did the poster for Zarkana, a Cirque Du Soleil show and for the Pearl Jam live tour Mudhoney, many album covers such as F.A.M.E. By Chris Brown and collaborated with Montana, many known clothing brands like Vans, in the end, he also decided to create his own clothing and toy brand – POPaganda, of course.
At this stage, you will probably not be surprised to find out he was also the subject of a book, participated in 19 documentaries, loaned his voice to his own character in a Simpsons episode and a doc-film for which he contributed to the soundtrack was dedicated to him
This man is also a musician. He’s in a band called Electric Illuminati and collaborated to the writing of some tracks of the POPaganda CD. Full of ideas, he is actually in the middle of a financing campaign to distribute a rock opera “Rabbbits in Delusionville” for which he contributed not only visuals but also wrote songs and the music.
Click here to discover the first tracks!
But wait! There is more. As if it wasn’t enough, you should know a company even used the name POPaganda for a Popsicle brand.
Now you better understand the real prolific meaning of everywhere and anywhere used at the beginning of this article and are probably very curious to find out what Ron is preparing for the Mural Festival.
Because Ron English has been almost everywhere but Montreal was missing on the list. Next June, this will change thanks to his participation at Mural Festival. The artist will not only create a mural but will also have a solo show from June 8th to 18th.
An anticipated visit which promises to hold quite a few surprises.
The vernissage of POPaganda Pop-up will take place on June 9th in the presence of the artist – see you there!