Pop Surrealism Meets Its Muse

Pop Surrealism Meets Its Muse

Enigmatic, wonderous, and magical are descriptions given to Pop Surrealist superstar Mark Ryden's artwork. Widely credited with ushering in a new genre of painting, Ryden has captivated the art world by merging contemporary cultural references with the spirit of 20th century surrealism. We jumped at the opportunity to bring together the imagination of this master artist and our beloved trailblazer, Barbie.

The collaboration pushes the limits of the anything-is-possible factor. We're excited to launch this collection of remarkable dolls and accessories, in addition to a pop-up exhibit featuring Ryden’s artwork.

Unique Techniques

In order to break the mold, first you have to make it. With Ryden's direction and source material (including sketches, drawings, sculptures, and paintings), we brought the surreal from the artist’s studio into the Mattel modeling studio. The doll-making process began with a magical mix of 3-D modeling and physical artistry.

After a digital sculpture was created and refined, it made the journey to wax mold. Each wax mold was manually cleaned, sanded, and prepped. Then they were sprayed with silver to conduct electricity. The pieces were then placed in an electroplating tank where a metal mold was made; this became the basis for a rotocast. Doll heads, animals, and other pieces were all created in this way. From there, doll geometry was designed around articulating limbs and pieces.

This process started the transformation, and additional Mattel artists worked to explore color swatches for hand-painted skin tones and faces. Hair rooting, the process for developing all the different hairstyles for Barbie, required its own unique application across each doll. Staying true to Ryden’s bespoke artwork frames and presentation style, the packaging for each doll is a work of art. Integrating the storytelling in the paintings, doll design, and graphics, the packaging details abound. These include embossed logos, metallic foils, and bold colors, which carry the graphics across the bottom of the boxes. Laser-precise blister packaging fits the shape of each doll (hello, custom hair), making the entire set worthy of any art collector and/or toy collector’s display.

All Eyes on the Icon

Pink is Barbie's signature color. And Pink Pop is the name of the collaboration project. So it stands to reason there's also a limited-edition Pink Pop Barbie that puts the theme into play. Featuring wavy pink hair and a dress adorned with striped sea stars, a heart, jewels, and other iconography, the doll design inside this candy-colored wonderland was inspired by Ryden’s signature style. Additional Ryden-designed surrealist details include a meat-clutch purse, a smiling yak, and a head-shaped flowerpot.

In a perfectly paired juxtaposition, the Mark Ryden x Barbie at the Surrealist Ball offers a set of Barbie dolls with a dodecahedron atop a geometric pedestal between them. Both dolls feature cropped bangs and wear gowns designed with jewels, universe motifs, and Ryden’s iconography.

Bee Barbie is everything you’d expect — and plenty of things you wouldn’t — from a doll with this name. Wispy, ethereal wings complement the fuzzy full-length bumblebee-striped faux-fur dress. This visionary outfit is capped by a bolt of yellow that acts as a hood / hair. Goth-inspired makeup lends a moody air to this buzz-worthy pollinator of empowerment.

And a spectacular showstopper for the collaboration is Ryden's one-of-a-kind sculpture and doll, Nature Queen. As the centerpiece of the exhibit, Nature Queen is exclusively part of the pop-up art gallery experience. The work that went into this one-of-a-kind masterpiece is evident. One of the first things to notice in Nature Queen is Barbie’s dress: a glamorous, mystical story unfolding with over 30 3D-printed animals.

Atop Barbie’s shimmering chartreuse hair is a gold crown, cast with help from Mattel’s modeling wizardry. An adjacent hive, gazing-eye tree stump, and oversized bees lend another worldly presence to this queen of the primordial fairy tale forest.

Collaborating with artists is how Mattel Creations takes the world on a journey to discover what’s next. This incredible partnership with Ryden goes a step further — showing the world what’s surreal.

Keep It Surreal

Our upcoming collaboration with artist Mark Ryden puts Barbie on the pedestal of Pop Surrealism.

Making a Mark on Pop Art

Art world superstar Mark Ryden is recognized as the Godfather of Pop Surrealism. Ryden's creative techniques helped define the movement — the exacting craftsmanship and layering of the Old Masters-style painting reinvented with a modern, playful mix of candy-colored flea market finds and forest creatures, toys, kids, and cultural artifacts. Ryden's paintings guide viewers through enigmatic scenes to become wonderous, whimsical puzzles of metaphysical allusion — all designed to act as a bridge between our world and a magical dreamland. There is resonating depth in his attention to details, including lavishly carved ornamental frames and the rich symbolism of Cyrillic and Chinese script, numerology, and spiritual iconography.

Mark Ryden was born in Medford, Oregon in 1963. After receiving his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ryden quickly caught the attention of the 1990s art world as he ushered in a new genre of painting. "Pop Surrealism" developed the scope and spirit of 20th century surrealism by embellishing its vocabulary with contemporary cultural references. Ryden's paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a 2015 career-spanning retrospective at The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo of Málaga, as well as an earlier retrospective at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.

An Icon Reimagined

With childhood innocence and the divine powers of femininity acting as major themes in Ryden's repertoire, it's no surprise that he works with Barbie as subject matter. Back in 1994, Saint Barbie was released, quickly becoming one of his most recognized paintings. The piece plays on Ryden's evocative balance of paradox and curiosity.

We were beyond thrilled to partner with Ryden for his upcoming pop-up collection and gallery exhibition featuring our beloved trailblazer. Working in conjunction with Ryden and his longtime partners at the Kasmin Gallery, the jointly organized show and collection will feature new and previous works. As part of the experience, a set of limited-edition Barbie dolls and accessories that personify Pop Surrealism will be on display.

The Kasmin Gallery x Mattel Creations pop-up will be located at 8382 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90069. It begins on November 11th, 2022, and runs through December 11, 2022, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM – 6 PM.

Stay tuned to MattelCreations.com for more details on this exciting work.