Snapshots From Zombie Nation

The nimble mind of artist KRK Ryden pieces together cartoon characters, drive-in theatres, outer space, devo-lution, mind control, and tikis to create a psychedelic pastiche of colorful painting

Snapshots From Zombie Nation

KRK Ryden lives in Oakland, Calif. He makes art that is saturated with references to cartoon characters, drive-in theatres, outer space, devo-lution, mind control, and tikis. His nimble mind forces these disparate but all-American pieces together to create a psychedelic pastiche of colorful painting and even 3-D composition. Ryden blazes an ambitious trail with each of the paintings on view this fall at the Escapist.

The best piece in this surreal show is Whip it Bad. It seems more finished, more tightly painted, and more controlled than some of the smaller paintings. Ryden structures his compositions with bright color fields, often contrasting a flat graphic cartoon area against a shaded, chiaroscuro area. With sheer force of will, he combines these things into a cohesive sci-fi-tinged environment. The sky may be dark and ominous, but there is a lot of smiling from pin-up girls and kids from advertisements conjuring ideas of media saturation and mind control – a zombie nation.

Ryden is buddies with Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh (who showed at the Escapist himself earlier this year), and Ryden's print series "Mutant Monarchy" seems like a riff on his pal's "Beautiful Mutant" series. KRK Ryden, aka Keyth, is a brother to the artist Mark Ryden. Both have been featured in the pages of the trendy San Francisco counterculture magazine Juxtapoze. If you watched a lot of TV as a kid or read a lot of comic books, you may understand more of the media references from these than I did. I enjoyed the staged, theatrical quality of light in the work. The vigorous insertion of characters is pleasantly paranoid when coupled with his accessible narratives. Squids and kids – how scary can that be?

"KRK Ryden and His Interesting Drawings" runs through Nov. 30 at the Escapist Bookstore, 2209-D S. First. For more information, call 912-1777 or visit

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KRK Ryden and His Interesting Drawings, KRK Ryden, The Escapist Bookstore and Gallery, Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh, Mutant Monarchy, Beautiful Mutant Series, Mark Ryden, Juxtapoze

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