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Ron English Takes Over ‘Coney Art Walls’

The Coney Island freak show just got way better.

This past week, Ron English, POPagandist and patron saint to proud mutants everywhere, took over one of the Coney Art Walls. The seaside exhibition is the brainchild of curator-extraordinaire Jeffery Deitch. English got up on one of the more than 25 temporary walls courtesy of real estate (re)developer Thor Equities. His wall, along with those by Lee Quiñones, Lady Pink, Daze, Crash, Kenny Scharf, Sheryo, Swoon, and Icy Signs – among others – are interspersed with truck containers to create a pseudo “summer village” pop-up space along the Brooklyn boardwalk. The neighboring good-eats are brought to you by the folks of Smorgasburg.

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“We have a Wynwood on our hands,” said English in reference to Miami’s street art mecca. “I think it’s important [to have] in New York because this culture started here and there’s never been one of these in New York. They have these in Norway, Spain, and in Italy, but not in New York City where it started. It has come home to roost, I guess.”

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For his contribution, English did a mash-up of four of his iconic characters a la the old sideshow banners. “I showed them maybe 30 characters,” he said, “and [four were] picked to make sideshows out of.” Now joining the ranks of the armless wonder and sword swallowers are B. Rex, the harder-to-love Barney (“You know, he’s not a vegetarian. He eats vegetarians.”), the obese fast-food mascot, MC Supersized, a “violent” Mickey Mouse, and Otto Topsy, the pop surrealist’s alien take-off on the Teletubbies.

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“The art from my early years was all about circuses and sideshows,” said English. “So, I’ve got some connection. I built sideshows years ago. I did videos for the sideshow guys too. And sometimes I work with Randy Johnson who was the grandson of Fred Johnson (who hand-painted banners for all the big circuses and carnivals for over sixty years.)”

Thankfully, Ron English’s signature moral clash with our bloated consumer culture is alive and well—even in the sunshine, surf, and sand. This is not art as diversion. This is art that sounds the alarm. “I mean you can’t use [art] to make a car go faster. [Its] sole purpose is to dispense information. I think it’s kind of important what the information is.”

“Coney Art Walls” is centered at 1320 Bowery Street in Brooklyn. All murals will be finished and on display by the weekend of the Mermaid Parade, June 20, 2015.

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