Ron English recently opened his latest show TOYBOX at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. A new body of work deploying the artist's long established visual vocabulary into multi-layered narratives of ambition and imagination; TOYBOX deconstructs the search for new meaning in a culture that is based as much on the imagination of its participants as on the physical realities these human concepts are played against. In light of this recent show, we wanted to ask a few questions about what it's like being Ron English in 2017.
Eben Benson: So, what is your story for TOYBOX? What is something you wanted to show with this body of work?
Ron English: The time has come for the emergence of new mythologies. When a society rejects reality, rejects the concept of facts, what it is doing is crying out for a reboot on the underlying myths the societal concept is based on. Only when we redefine who we think we are, can we move forward and create a reality based version of the new mythologies. In picture and song “TOYBOX: America in the Visuals” I lay out a new mythology for a new now.
How do you approach making new bodies of work like this? Do you think there's a peculiar dialogue when showing your work in Los Angeles vs. showing in other cities?
First, I actually feel the show welling up deep inside me. The emotionality comes before the visualization. In a way a body of work is not a critique of society but a testament of what it actually feels like to be immersed in the times. The technique is more an expression of my personality, of my unique voice, while the subject matter is the actual conversation.
What is something you've tried to maintain in your art through this surreal year? I feel like making art that serves as political and social commentary must be kind of difficult when the joke is almost telling itself.
It doesn’t feel surreal to me. I understand that I belong to a tribe of like-minded individuals that are not currently controlling our own destiny. There is another tribe that is playing out their vision of the world so, since they currently have no obstructions, their vision will become a reality. I am sure they will eventually recoil when they realize what they have unleashed on the world, but for now they are revelling in their victory. It is on us to create an alternative narrative that is well conceived and ready to implement when the tide turns.
What are some things that have given you hope this year?
To be an artist is to be an optimist, to be an optimist is to be a revolutionary. I see a lot of great art being created and that is the thing that gives me hope, I see a new incarnation of the revolutionary spirit that has always saved us.
The show also included a musical component featuring a conceptual band titled The Rabbbits. They wrote 45 songs that tell the same story in another medium. The music buttressed the concepts, breathing another dimension of life into the work. The Rabbbits are a conceptual band that tells the story of Delusionville, a strange underworld society filled with characters created by Ron. Songwriters include Joe Johnson, Ron English, and Russ Cusick. The rock opera stars Russ Cusick, Rhiannon Parsaca, Rowan Parsaca, Lee Falco, Christine Dominguez, Will Bryant, Derek Dempsey, and the Reverend Vince Anderson.
Portrait by Bird Man Photos All other photos courtesy of the gallery