Ron English is a troublemaker, an outlaw artist. His almost-spiritual attack on corporate billboards and their consumerist messages have won him the admiration of the public across the world.
POPaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English is a documentary that captures English at his best (and worst?). Do you want to know why Joe Camel is no longer a superhero for kids?
WATCH this and thank English for saving our kids:
English coined the term POPaganda to describe his signature mash-up of high and low cultural touchstones, from superhero mythology to totems of art history, populated with his vast and constantly growing arsenal of original characters, including MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in the hit movie “Supersize Me,” and Abraham Obama, the fusion of America’s 16th and 44th Presidents, an image widely discussed in the media as directly impacting the 2008 election.
Last week I met English for the first time at the opening of Corpocracy at the Station Museum in Houston. Here’s what I saw and heard.
English says he loves to drop these “subversive products” – cereal boxes like “Count Calorie” (Free Glucometer in each box) and “Sugar Frosted Fat” (Free RITALIN dose included) – on the shelves of supermarkets across the country. “I view the supermarket as my art gallery,” he chuckles. “I’m trying to shift the conversation and take it back and away from the point-of-view of the manufacturer.”
English’s iconoclastic sense of humor led him to create McSupersized (click on the photo above to supersize it) and Fat Tony to “demonstrate what would happen if they ate the products they advertised.” He confides: “Part of my art is that you have to have a lawyer!” He’s been to jail on numerous occasions, and as the documentary shows (watch above), does not shy away from controversy.
Cathy Cowgirl (above). Imagine all desires wrapped into one: food, sex, mother’s milk… Cathy Cowgirl is the ultimate object of desire. The first Cathy Cowgirl figure was produced in 2006 by STRANGEco, one of the first Art Toys created from Ron English’s artwork.
Temper Tot (above) is one of Ron’s most recognizable characters. He’s based on his “The Incredulous HulkBoy” piece for his “Status Factory” Show.
By his own admission, English has hijacked public space worldwide for the sake of art since the 1980s. Here’s hoping he never stops.
This article is part of a series based on Corpocracy, a group show now at the Station Museum, Houston, Texas.