This past Saturday marked the 9th anniversary of 9/11, the devastating tragedy that caused Americans to take a closer look at their government, beliefs and the subsequent re-tooling of culture. Marking this poignant event was the opening of Ron English’s newest body of work, Status Factory, at Opera Gallery in NYC. The work, which was spread over two floors and a mezzanine, stacked salon style on the walls and tucked into hidden, claustrophobic corners, featured the dizzying colors and cast of nostalgic characters that English is known for.
References to art history included a Warhol-esque wall of deformed Marilyns as well as a skeletal portrait echoing Frida Kahlo’s self portrait in a traditional Tehuana wedding dress. The fleshy bodies of Renaissance era women featured KISS-like makeup. Life size green plastic army men were given skeleton faces and twisted on the floor in unseen agony. The inherent propaganda of the work, coupled by the skillfully trained hand of English causes a delightful yet unsettling feeling in the viewer. The large setting of the gallery created an exuberant ‘funhouse’ effect as visitors descended glass stairs into the basement where a small room, postered with ironic, reassigned cooperate slogans, played a documentary on the visionary and bold artist. Much like the way subliminal messages worm their way into the collective unconscious, English’s playful approach to the serious turbulence of our time garners a sense of thoughtfulness in his viewers. HF correspondent JL Schnabel reports in.