Popaganda: The Art and Subversion of Ron English

Book Reviews | Nov 12th, 2006

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Author: Ron English
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Genre: Art
Pages: 160
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link

This glossy, colorful book collects Ron English’s great works and accomplishments, spanning his 20 years of using and twisting pop art to subvert itself, popular culture, and commercialistic overkill.

Although a painter, street artist, and musician, English is best known for his hilarious – and sometimes dangerous – billboard work, whereby he would covertly paint over hundreds of billboards to convey an ironic, social point, sometimes done so well that the original doesn’t appear altered. One of his thoughtful pranks was to paint a close-up of Charles Manson in the style of Mac’s “Think Different” ads, to point out Mac’s tasteless use of geniuses and great humanitarians to sell their products. Big Tobacco is another common victim of English’s talent and wit, and his Joe Camel spoofs are more effective and affective than any government-funded anti-tobacco advertisement.

Ron English’s work successfully addresses the Disneyification of America, the blatant commercialism of pop art, the uncontested corporate (and irresponsible) intrusion into people’s lives, and the nonstop barrage of advertising that forces itself upon us everywhere we turn. His works throw a stick into the cogs, jamming popular culture for just a moment, so that for the split second you take in his work, you can actually “think different.”

Bottom Line: Capitalism means never having to say you’re sorry. Ron English is making them sorry.
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