Mark Ryden’s newest exhibition at Paul Kasmin Gallery opened last week, and features his first monumental bronze sculpture and an ongoing exploration of Jungian archetypes in porcelain and paint. Ryden graciously discussed his personal philosophy and current influences exclusively for Juxtapoz.

A Life in Bronze
Mark Ryden: I had thought about doing a bronze sculpture for a while. The idea for this piece came to me during a conversation with my wife, Marion. We were discussing what kind of grave marker we might want for ourselves and what our graves might look like, a subject we find interesting. The vision of a dodecahedron covered in my own iconography came to me. I thought what a wonderful bronze sculpture it would be and decided to create it for this exhibition. I titled the piece Self Portrait as a Dodecahedron because the subject is a reflection on myself and the imagery I often return to in my work.

It is fascinating to think that this sculpture could possibly be around a couple thousand years or more from now. For the patina of the sculpture, I was inspired by a visit to a recent exhibition of bronzes from the Hellenistic period, in the first few centuries BC, at the Getty Museum. The sculptures beautifully showed their great age on their exquisite surfaces: deep hues of black covered in gorgeous turquoise corrosion. I tried to emulate this surface on my sculpture.

The sculpture was created by a wonderful group of artisans at Foundry Guastini in Vicenza, Italy, using a traditional lost wax technique. These people are masters at classical traditional bronze casting and sculpting. It was wonderful to work with them. They beautifully brought my vision to life.

ryden install

The Dodecahedron
Even before I fully understood the significance of the dodecahedron, I was instinctively attracted to it, and it began to show up in my paintings. The dodecahedron is a very special geometric form, permeated with mystery and connotations of divinity. It belongs to a small group of five geometric solids that share a simple set of parameters: the same polygon on every face, and the same number of faces at each vertex. It is interesting that there are only five shapes that belong to this very limited group. They each have a mathematical beauty and perfect symmetry that have given them tremendous significance to mathematicians and philosophers since the times of antiquity. They became known as the Platonic Solids because they figured prominently in the philosophy of Plato. He associated each shape with one of the four classical elements: earth, air, water and fire. The fifth solid, the dodecahedron, he nebulously associated with God and the heavens. Aristotle alleged that the heavens were made out of an element he called “ether” and he attached the dodecahedron to this element. The dodecahedron symbolizes a bridge between the physical world and the intangible realm.

The images on the twelve sides of the sculpture are the icons or symbols that I most often use in my art overall. These include things like the bee, the tree, meat, the eye, etc. I embrace the symbols and icons that return repeatedly in my art. I have a long relationship with each of them and feel great affection for them. On the top pentagon surface of the dodecahedron, I have incorporated my own astrological birth chart.

I think that when the alchemists played around with substances, it was not unlike an artist playing around with paint. They liked to see what would happen with various substances as they tried different things with them. They were interested in the connection between a physical substance and the spiritual realm. In that way, I do feel a kinship to alchemy. I love to play with paint and see what magical thing I can make happen with it.

Read the full interview with Mark Ryden in an upcoming issue of Juxtapoz.