mark bryan Maja With Rabbits
5 min

Sensuality And Satire In The Works Of American Pop-Surrealist Mark Bryan

5 min

Mark Bryan (b. 1950) is an artist who uses the potential of the surrealist genre working between subconscious and satire. The environment in which he grew up was an impetus for his interest in pop culture and surrealism. Oeuvres of the artists like Max Ernst and especially Rene Magritte are frequent objects of his parodies, along with many other iconic paintings. In accordance with the surrealist manner, Bryan "mocks" the classic works and shows us skeletons chilling on Böcklin's Isle Of The Dead. The main difference between him and his avant-garde predecessors is that surrealists eventually became the very thing they protested against - the tradition, which now is itself the object of satire.

Mark Bryan with his Mad Tea Party painting

Fig. 1. Mark Bryan with his Mad Tea Party painting (

Between Horrors And Newspapers

The child of Southern California in the 1960s, Bryan was fascinated by Sci-Fi, comics, and horror movies. The political context of that time with a nuclear threat (here we go again), the red scare, and the Vietnam War evoked a certain degree of awareness and attention to the crisis of humanity, which became a recurrent topic of his works. Initially, Bryan decided to study architecture and moved to San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles in 1968. Soon, he realized his aspiration for art and, two years later, returned to Los Angeles to study fine arts at the Otis Art Institute. While studying, Bryan shared a house with the founders of the Chicano Art Movement (Los Four) that was an expression of the identity of Mexican artists inside American culture. Politically charged Mexican art provided Bryan with vivid examples of what the painter's work may look like and which ideas it can convey. As it's said on his site, Bryan "has lived on the Central Coast of California for the past 44 years and tries to paint and surf as much as possible." And reality gives him rich material to work with every day.

Arnold Böcklin The Isle Of Dead

Fig. 2. Arnold Böcklin The Isle Of Dead, 1880 (

Mark Bryan The Isle Of The Dead

Fig. 3. Mark Bryan The Isle Of The Dead (

Mark Bryan The Isle Of The Dead  detail

Fig.3a. Detail

Francisco Goya The Nude Maja,

Fig. 4. Francisco Goya The Nude Maja, 1800 (

 mark bryan Maja With Rabbits

Fig. 5. Maja With Rabbits (

Henry Fuseli The Nightmare

Fig. 6. Henry Fuseli The Nightmare, 1781 (

Mark Bryan, parody on Fuseli

Fig. 7. Mark Bryan, parody on Fuseli (

Max Ernst Ubu Imperator,

Fig. 8. Max Ernst Ubu Imperator, 1923 (

mark bryan Ubu and The Children of Paradise

Fig. 9. Ubu and The Children of Paradise (

Giorgione The Sleeping Venus

Fig. 10. Giorgione The Sleeping Venus, 1510 (

Mark Bryan Venus and The Burning Temples

Fig. 11. Mark Bryan Venus and The Burning Temples (

Therapeutic Value Of Lunacy

In his artist statement, Bryan says that painting is access to the subconscious. "Except for my political work, I don't spend a lot of time planning my paintings. One image seems to lead to another like going down a corridor and opening doors to see what's there. I try to allow the pictures to make their way to the canvas on their own, often changing them significantly as I work. Not knowing where they will end up makes the process fun and intriguing." At the same time, the artist acknowledges the therapeutic value of his political satire. "When the circus turns especially ugly or when a good idea appears, I feel the need and responsibility to make some kind of comment. Humor and satire have been my way to confront serious topics which are often too grim to portray directly. There is always some satisfaction for me in pointing out the absurdities of human behavior and making fun of the villains of the day. I don't know if this kind of work has any effect on the situation, but at least it has a therapeutic value for me and others of like mind" (

mark bryan The Tornado Woman

Fig. 12. The Tornado Woman (

mark bryan Tornado Woman #1

Fig. 13. Tornado Woman #1 (

mark bryan Heavy Weather

Fig. 14. Heavy Weather (

mark bryan Stealing Maria

Fig. 15. Stealing Maria (

Behind the Premium curtain you can check out an extended version of the article with additional text on Bryan's influences and more alluring images.


Click HERE for the outlandish voluptuousness of the digital pop surrealist Ray Caesar

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