The Manila-born artist displays his bold and brazen approach to art-making with his latest body of work at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in New York.
Art Radar takes a look at the newest work from the 44-year-old, featuring animals, guns and hysterical parties.
Known for his pop-like aesthetic and fondness for subverting common icons and imagery, Ronald Ventura ventures into the wild and the wonderful with his latest exhibition at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in New York. Entitled “Wild State of Mind”, the exhibition showcases both paintings and sculptures that depict bulls, wolves and bears, walking the line between sanity and insanity, liberation and restraint.
Ventura is no stranger to the Southeast Asian art scene; after all, the artist was behind Grayground (2011), the work known for breaking records at Sotheby’s Contemporary Southeast Asian Painting sale in Hong Kong in 2011. The nearly-four-metre-long painting, made out of graphite, oil and acrylic, depicted a stampede of horses in moving detail, selling for a then-unprecendented amount of HKD8.42 million. In 2012, Ventura produced his “Point of Know Return” series, lightboxes blending together popular cartoon characters and imagery with doomsday-like symbols and warning signs. The off-beat, yet edgy and disconcerting effect is something that Ventura often plays with; Shadow of Forest (2013) features wild animals with cast paper heads, albeit to the effect that some of the animals look almost startled or confused. Last year, Ventura also had the honour of being the inaugurating artist of the newly-minted Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET) with his blockbuster exhibition “Shadow Forest: Encounters and Explorations”, which ran from January to March 2017, and was curated by art historian and critic Patrick D. Flores.
Ventura’s latest body of work, “Wild State of Mind”, displays some of the characteristic brashness that some of his other works show. Typical motifs reappear: Ventura’s obsession with animals, for example, figures here as well. His love of blending cartoon characters and mass-media iconography also features strongly. His inclination towards a slick, glossy and glib style also remains. It is also a show that embraces a certain love of danger: Ventura continues to edge the overtones of flagrant freedom with firearms, traffic warning signs and the sharp horns of bulls. Exploring the intersections “between reality and fiction, madness and sanity, logic and instinct”, the show builds a sense that our civilised societies are really no better than an unchecked, sprawling urban jungle.
Outstanding works include Party Animals (2017), a large painting depicting anthropomorphised animals at a birthday party. Baring fangs, with large, startled eyes with heads thrown back in all directions, the party toes the line between festivity and unchecked madness; the tone of Ventura’s scene does not remain strictly celebratory. Adding to the rambunctiousness are slightly quirky touches: the red, cartoon-like devil rests atop the buffet table, and a pig steps over the table, its rear shown to the viewer. In what appears to be a dangerous moment, the fangs of an adjoining wolf hover too close for comfort to the pig’s rear, whilst a bat-like character perches on its shoulder. A fascinating tableaux, Party Animals remains as the centrepiece of the exhibition, setting its tone.
Wild State of Mind (Stripes Series 1) (2017) is a less exuberant, but still intriguing piece in the exhibition. Also an acrylic and oil work, a lion cradles a monkey close, clad in trench coat and camouflage pants, gun dangling from hand. A peaceful, calm expression on the lion’s face, the piece is almost serene, done in a more muted palette as compared to Party Animals. The work is almost as if the viewer is privy to a secret midnight walk in the forest.
Los Talentudos (2017) hits closer to homeground with another iteration of Ventura’s classic motifs. A host of animal and cartoon characters (one can spy Super Mario in the mix) surround a rider and its steed. Sitting on a large, pale wolf-like animal, the rider (also, incidentally, an animal) breathes fire in a show of heroism, whilst being chased by a pack of lions and other animals. In a disconcerting contrast of images, breakdancers, street graffiti and skateboards provide a counterpoint to the almost painterly qualities of the other animals, providing an interesting blend of stylistic points and references that lend the work its vibrant, energetic quality.
Some of the most impressive pieces in “Wild State of Mind” have to be Ventura’s “Hyper Beast” sculptures. Made out of fiberglass and resin, the animals have an air of solidity about them; one can see the muscles ripple under the surface of their skin. With stripes drawn over them, Ventura’s animals invite parallels to other Pop works such as Jasper John’s seminal “Targets”. With similar notions of aggression and authority tied to them, Ventura’s animals feature sharp horns, fangs and hulking stances. Hyper Beast 1 (2017) features a tail that bears an uncanny resemblance to barbs, and fur that evokes the memory of thorns. “Hyper Beast” builds on the broader dialogue that Ventura’s works create between pop as well as mass media imagery, and the spirit of senseless aggression that seems to pervade much of the chaos that urban life brings today.
Ventura has also previously presented his first US solo exhibition with Tyler Rollins Fine Art in 2009; he has also exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (2016), as well as the Ayala Museum, the Philippines (2015), Museo delle Culture, Lugano (2014) and Singapore Tyler Print Institute (2012). Working at the boundaries of multiple styles and media, Ventura’s art tells a universal story, drawing our attention to the uneasy states of mind that exist underneath the surface.
“Wild States of Mind” by Ronald Ventura is on view from 26 October 2017 to 27 January 2018 at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, 529 West 20th Street, 10W, New York, NY 10011.
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