[Exclusive] Ron English's Incredible Hybrid Animals

The pop art icon's 'NeoNature: We Are the New They,' exhibit features English's trademark mixture of trippy and poignant.

by Beckett Mufson
08 December 2015, 8:45pm

Ron English, 'Monarch Elephant', profile oil on canvas, 50 x 40

What if evolition had turned out a little differently? What if we could push it in new and fantastical directions? These are a couple of the questions pop art icon Ron English's new exhibition, NeoNature: We Are the New They, asks. The series of 22 artworks, soon to be on display at Corey Helford Gallery, fuse everything from a T-Rex and its ancestor, the chicken, to an elephant with a tiny monarch butterfly, as in the exclusive image above. English tells The Creators Project, “Monarch Elephant is about the fragility and interconnectedness of life on earth. The delicate butterfly at one with the sturdy elephant, interdependent as they are different in a fragile global ecosystem.”  

We got an exclusive look at another image, which focuses on a different theme from English's hybrid menagerie. It depicts a superhero crowned with a massive brain, shielded by a speech bubble and wearing wicked sharp pencils on its feet. Says English, “In the piece Captain Caption I have made the artist and author the superhero. In life it is poetry before politics, ideas before action. Everything is imagined before it is realised and in my world the dreamers are the superheroes.”

Ron English, Captain Caption, oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 72 x 96

Both works—and the remaining 20—explore the power fantasy has to fight close-mindedness and bolster empathy. The very name of the exhibition, We Are the New They, suggests a closing of the gap between "normal" and "different," and the retirement of "they" as a concept. “Who are they anyway? They are always the other, the exotic, the misunderstood, we are never the they to us, but to everything else in the universe, we are the new they," says English.

Many works within NeoNature are oil paintings, but the exhibit also includes sculptures, including one called Cathy Cowgirl, and two installations featuring the likes of Bigfoot and a deer who have wisened up to become hunters with camo coats. English has been a pioneer of what he calls "Popoganda" for years, mashing up high- and low-brow artforms ranging from, well, oil painting, all the way to comic books. His street art is iconic and social media friendly, and he designed the mascot for Morgan Spurlock's fast food assassination documentary Supersize Me and the Lincoln-Obama mashup that drew support for the then-presidential candidate in 2008. He's not only designed the wicked Bart Grin toys that are everywhere right now, but has been a character on The Simpsons himself.

Oh, and according to Instagram, he's giving away free mini prints to the first 300 guests, so stop reading this and get over to Corey Helford Gallery on December 12.

Ron English, NeoNature Exhibit, Giraffosaurus, oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 48 x 64

Ron English,  NeoNature Exhibit, Zelephant, oil on canvas, 48 x 52

Ron English, NeoNature Exhibit, Monarch Ship, oil on canvas, 36 x 48

Ron English, NeoNature Exhibit, Grin God, oil on canvas, 50 x 50

Ron English, NeoNature Exhibit, Poultry Rex Revolution, oil on canvas, 56 x 42

NeoNature: We Are the New They will be on exhibit at Corey Helford Gallery from December 12 - January 9. See more of Ron English's work on his website and Instagram.


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