Obesity is gaining legitimacy as a health epidemic, especially in America, the birthplace of the fast food chain. But it’s not a new issue for Pop Surrealist painter Ron English. First featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 12, his colorful anti-corporate and cartoon-inspired works have long addressed his interests in all things mass-produced, including food and our increasing tendency to over eat.
One of his most well known characters is “Mc Supersized”, featured in the 2004 hit movie “Supersize Me,” English’s interpretation of Ronald McDonald as a fat Buddha eating a diet peddled by the famous fast food restaurant chain. It has been recently argued that our taste preferences such as a “sweet tooth” are innate to human biology. For instance, research is finding that certain sugary foods can trigger brain responses that are similar to people’s reactions to addictive substances, giving new meaning to the idea of a “Sugar High”- the title of English’s latest solo offering opening at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome this weekend.
The exhibition follows in the tradition of his playful, signature mash-up of high and low cultural icons, exploring into what he calls “the dark depths of fast food”; making a reappearance is sugary cereal mascots like “Fat Tony”, “Mc Supersize”, in a print series of 13 multi-colored figures, and “Uncle Scam”, a play on Uncle Sam, who takes the place of Jesus Christ at the center of the Last Supper, based on Leonardo da Vinci’s late 1490s mural painting in Milan re-titled “Uncle Scam’s Last Breakfast.” Though they are humorous and surrealistic, English’s characters point out an undeniable truth about the strong link between mascots and advertising to our overeating. His exhibit investigates their power to shape people’s tastes and choices related to food and, consequently, to our health.