Book Review: "Original Grin: The Art of Ron English"
We overuse a term such as "the original" too much in our society now. We are constantly trying to make something sound EPIC and IMPORTANT, when, in actuality, we are just creating clickbait headlines. But Ron English is truly an original. In spirit, practice, creativity and ideas, he is a forefather of street art, interventionist art and cynical consumeristic commentary. He fits the moniker, and so his newest book, Original Grin: The Art of Ron English, seems perfectly apt for a career that spans over 40 years.
That distinction is quite important. Ron has been making pop art and street works for so long that he predates even the labels of pop surrealism and street art. Original Grin, the first true retrospective book in his illustrious career, captures just how masterful of a painter Ron is, but also how his billboard works truly spawned a generation of emerging and intelligent public art around the world. The way he bends art classics, such as Picasso's grand Guernica, or even pop staples like our favorite cereal cartoon characters, shows that Ron is engaged in our entire culture of creativity. That the book even saves a chapter on Ron's music career gives an indication of just how wide-ranging his work truly is, with no genre or medium left unexplored. "I am always interested in the power of art that goes beyond commodity and into conversation," Ron says in the book's ending interview, "And the conversation doesn't have to be overtly political. It's more about curiosity...". Original Grin is 500 pages of the best kind of curiosity, one that is never-ending and always engaging. —Evan Pricco