Abject Expressionism: The Art of Ron English
206 Pages, Hardcover
As if Ron English couldn't get any more pervasive, he busts through the brick and mortar of our favorite local book sellers with this new three-pound hardcover retrospective from Last Gasp. "Abject Expressionism" showcases the artist's expansive career in a landscape format, a layout fitting to the master of billboard liberation.
In the past thirty years, Ron English's reverse-propaganda imagery has appeared plastered on billboards, hung neatly on gallery walls, and is now packaged for the art-toy savvy crowd as collectable fugurines. Abject Expressionism collects the various movements of English's work in context of theme and media rather than chronological order. The 206 pages are crawling with English's constant riffs on American Obesity, Consumption, War, and Mass Marketing, showcasing works old and new. Somehow, the book seamlessly transitions from Warhol-reminiscent celebrity portraiture to riffs on Picasso's Guernica. Before you know it, we're knee-deep in creepy renditions of English's kids dressed as clowns. For those needing context of chronology and a sense of scale, the book includes an index in the back that lists the size of the original piece and the date it was created. Apart from the index, there is very little accompanying text to support the beautifully reproduced paintings. There are two great introductions to the book. The first is from Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who brought us "Super Size Me". Spurlock found a kindred spirit in English when coming across his artwork almost by accident. The second introduction is a forward by art critic Peter Frank. Frank waxes poetic for a while about the melding of high and low art before landing a very appropriate line about English's work avoiding cliché, "…They mean something out there, beyond the museum, beyond the album cover, beyond the art book…"
Abject Expressionism is an excellent recap of the thirty plus year career of Ron English. What the book lacks in text, in makes up for in content and context. It beautifully divides and make sense of English's various subject matter, keeping the hot-side hot, and the cool-side cool.