One Barbie sports Gothic black lipstick and a fuzzy bumble bee-striped faux fur dress. Another doll with wavy pink hair holds a meat purse.
These boundary-pushing dolls are part of Mark Ryden x Barbie, a new collaboration between toymaker Mattel’s e-commerce platform for collectors, Mattel Creations, and alumnus Mark Ryden (BFA 87 Illustration).
The collaboration includes the special Los Angeles pop-up exhibition Pink Pop, hosted by Mattel Creations and Ryden’s New York-based gallery Kasmin, on display through December 11. It features a new series of Ryden’s paintings, sculptures and drawings. Also, beginning November 18, Mattel will begin selling a limited edition Mattel Creations capsule collection of premium Barbie dolls and accessories designed by the artist.
“It is difficult to define Barbie,” said Portland, Oregon-based Ryden in a press release. “She is a cultural phenomenon, an archetypal figure. She is a bona fide celebrity, a subject worthy for Andy Warhol to portray alongside the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.”
Known as the godfather of Pop Surrealism, Ryden first gained attention in the early ‘90s for propelling the art movement that combined 20th Century surrealism with contemporary cultural references. Barbie has made appearances in Ryden’s art for a long time, and his 1994 painting Saint Barbie—his first depiction of Barbie—is one of his most recognized artworks.
ArtCenter has also partnered in the past with Barbie and Mattel. The 2017 Designmatters studio Imagining the Future of the Barbie Dreamhouse challenged a team of interdisciplinary students to reimagine the Barbie Dreamhouse by responding to the cultural and societal needs of children around the world.
Ryden’s first exhibition in L.A. since 2014, Pink Pop captures his (and Barbie’s) love of the color pink. For the exhibition, Ryden created several one-of-a-kind pieces, including the sculpture and doll Nature Queen. The centerpiece of the exhibition, the chartreuse-haired doll wears a gold crown, cast with help from Mattel’s modelers, and a gown covered with more than 30 3D printed animal heads.
“It has been an amazing experience to work with Barbie,” said Ryden. “The body of work in Pink Pop are my own new personas for her.”