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Mark Ryden just might be the pied piper of painting (and no child is safe)

April 30, 2010 |  6:30 am

Rydenincarnation Incarnation in frame jpe#7E Many artists have followers. Mark Ryden has disciples. 

Three years ago, the L.A. painter of "low brow" fame inspired an opening-night crowd at the Michael Kohn Gallery to dress up like trees.

Thursday night, his most ardent fans showed up at Paul Kasmin in New York looking like Victorian ladies or gents, in keeping with "the Gay '90's old tyme" theme of his new show. The standout was a woman on stilts, wearing a corseted red dress decorated with plastic pieces of meat.

Her costume was a nod to a painting in the show: "Incarnation," 2009, right, featuring a porcelain-doll-like girl-woman who wears a dress made of sausage links, ham shanks and other raw meat. The red flesh of the meat matches her lips and cheeks. 

Ryden, who said he enjoyed seeing the meat-dripping stilt-walker, says his work reflects "an attraction to the Victorian treatment of funerals and death" and "an obsession with collectibles from that period," from children's books and toys to anatomical models.

As for his own outfit Thursday night, the artist wore a three-piece suit (bought on eBay) and bowler hat (bought in Pasadena) for the occasion. His wife, artist Marion Peck, went for a festive (though funereal) shirt blossoming with black flowers.

The New York gallery, which is showing Ryden for the first time, also had reason to celebrate. The show includes five paintings priced at $250,000 to $800,000 along with more affordable drawings and watercolors. By Thursday night, four of the five canvases had sold, with the fifth on reserve, according to gallery manager Nick Olney.

A poster of "Incarnation," priced at $500 each in an edition of 500, has also sold out.

This mesmerizing time-lapse video of Ryden in action bringing the pale creature to life might have helped.

--Jori Finkel

Follow the writer on Twitter: @jorifinkel

Image courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery