Sound And Vision: Michael Jackson's "Dangerous," cover artwork by Mark Ryden

July 02, 2018

Juxtapoz Sound and Vision is a new segment on our platform dedicated to exploring one piece of substantial album artwork every Sunday. Album artwork is one of the primary ways that musicians and visual artists are able to collaborate, and many iconic album covers are simultaneously iconic pieces of pop art. It’s also an excuse for us to share some of our favorite albums and the visual component behind what makes an album groundbreaking and fun.

Michael Jackson, Dangerous
Art by Mark Ryden

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This week’s Juxtapoz "Sound And Vision" focuses in on Michael Jackson’s fourth solo album Dangerous, with album artwork by the legendary pop-surrealist painter, Mark Ryden. “Dangerous” was Jackson’s most introspective album, a collection of songs that explore his inner contradictions paired with an appeal for social and political healing. Jackson, standing alone at the highest echelon of fame in the United States, wanted his fourth album to bring people together through exposing himself first of all. The album’s incorporation of elements from the “new jack swing” genre made “Dangerous” an experimental but masterful work of music that appealed to a broad audience.


Jackson chose a well-known illustrator at the time to create the carnivalesque cover, named Mark Ryden. Many would become familiar with Mark Ryden over the next 2 decades, including Juxtapoz founder Robert Williams, who selected Ryden’s artwork for the second issue of Juxtapoz back in 1994. Ryden is the progenitor and perhaps the most iconic artist to come out of pop-surrealism, making him inextricably linked to our magazine.

Ryden’s reworking of Dangerous is now on view in London in “Michael Jackson: On the Wall” at the National Portrait Gallery (seen above). As Mark Ryden told Juxtapoz: 

I originally created the “Dangerous” album cover as a commercial piece for Michael Jackson.  Now, I have revisited the work as a fine artist. I decided to encapsulate the original album art as though it were a relic of sorts. I designed a massive ornate frame that is more of a 3D sculpture to house the 2D painting.  I wanted it to function like a reliquary. 

Thematically, I was interested in working with Michael Jackson’s identity as a royal. He had a fascination with aristocracy, actively pushing forward his own title “The King of Pop”. His union with Lisa-Marie Presley was not unlike an old world joining of royal families, uniting with the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll. Michael was famously photographed in an elaborate golden throne which I looked to for inspiration.  Similar to paintings of Napoleon or Louis IV, I want this to feel like a monumental portrait of the King.   

I originally painted the album cover in 1991 and was very fortunate to meet and work with Michael Jackson at that time.  He was at the peak of his fame and since then he has gone on to become a legendary icon. Only a very small group of celebrities rise to this level of superstar. To have worked with a star of this magnitude was an amazing experience. As the years go by, it seems even more amazing to me.


Mark Ryden, Juxtapoz issue n2, 1995

Juxtapoz 131 Dec11

Mark Ryden, Juxtapoz n131, December 2011


Mark Ryden, Juxtapoz n161, June 2014