Ron English’s Beacon Popmart

I thought about riding on Saturday. I let the cold talk me out of it.

There is an art event I really wanted to see, but it’s far away. I guess ‘event’ is the best way to describe this place in Beacon, NY. It is a shop created by the artist Ron English.

The cold can easily talk you out of going for a ride, as it did Saturday. The cold was debating with me again this Sunday morning as the temperature was in the 40’s. It was scheduled to break 50 by the afternoon. Putting my reasoning aside, I put on my big boy pants (lined with Kevlar) and decided to go for it!  Well…I was right. It was chilly.

I am posting this photo below to declare that this pump at the Pip Stop on the Palisades Parkway is a biker friendly pump. People who ride appreciate this. The handle lets up easy so you can slow it down for a focused fill of the tank. No splash. No mess.

With a full tank, I was ready for the long haul. On this ride, I was reminded of a chart that was recently posted by someone I know, (Thanks Doc). It is a motorcycle wind chill chart. I was doing 70mph and it was just under 50 degrees. So the temperature I was feeling was just above freezing. I would estimate about 36 degrees. By the time I got home, it would be below freezing.

One thing that convinced me to take the plunge was my heated grips. This is my second cold-weather season having the heated grips. This was my first time using them this season. They were invaluable, but I have no fairing and I did not install the flyscreen I got, so the frigid air was blasting my chest and arms.

But I was determined. I was on a mission. I was going to Beacon, New York, to see Ron English’s Popmart. More on that when I get there. Meanwhile, I had to make some miles. I rode North up the Palisades Parkway then crossed back to the East side of the Hudson River, just past Bear Mountain. I did a little U-turn for this shot.

I pulled over at a small town called Garrison where you can see West Point Military Academy across the river.

There were numerous sites I had marked on my map before taking off, but due to the cold and time, I decided to skip some things. I figured if there was enough time I could catch them on the way back.

There was one thing that caught my eye that I had not marked. It looked like a castle on a mountaintop. It’s something you would commonly see along a river in Europe, not New York? But there it was.

Castle Rock was the estate for the former president of the Illinois Central Railroad, William H. Osborn. It was built in 1881. See it? Above the headlight, on the mountaintop. It remains a private estate, so no visitors.

I stopped for one more shot along the way at this quaint little home.

From there I was headed to Beacon. When I got there I turned off the highway to go through the center of town. Beacon is a lovely place. It is one of those towns that has had a revival of sorts. Many of the old industrial towns along the Hudson River have been given a new life inspired by the arts and interest in the heritage of our country. Main Street is lined with 19th-century buildings bustling with activity.

But my purpose in Beacon was beyond Main Street. I wanted to see Ron English’s Popmart.

And when my chilled body finally arrived. It was CLOSED.

However, a sign in the window said it would re-open at 2pm.

So I went back to Main Street, had some lunch, and looked about. A roaring river rips through Beacon.

Blah Blah Blah! Nuff said!

It was now past 2 pm so I headed back to the shop. It was OPEN!

I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The place was shabby. Desolate. Unkept. It bothered me that this sign was laying on the ground. I noticed it when I stopped by earlier but thought it would be resurrected when the place opened.

Inside, however, it retained a magical aura. It is kitschy.

There were these fantastic displays along the surrounding walls of the shop.

Many of the items for sale in the Popmart consisted of plastic models designed by Ron English.

A lot of Ron English’s work ‘sticks it’ to corporate America and corporate advertising. He reinvents force-fed pop culture. These models are cool, but not my taste.

I love Ron English’s paintings. He often paints bizarre characters and settings in a hyper-realist manner. His paintings aren’t being shown here. They are for galleries around the globe. I can gaze endlessly at some of his paintings. Related to his paintings was this surreal landscape display with ape-like creatures standing within.

The last time I went to a Ron English gallery show to see his paintings, I realized he must have made large models to paint from. Here was a prime example. Plastic creatures were melted, glued and painted, to create these otherworldly scenes.

In this corner of the shop were camouflage deers. Another theme in his paintings.

This bubble gum machine triptych was another display containing some of Ron’s characters.

Resting in the lap of this Mouseketeer is a note left by David Arquette thanking Ron English for some recent artwork.

A few life-size creatures were sitting about as well.

Within the helmet is one of Ron English’s Star Skulls.

I asked if this machine below was functional. Some of Ron English’s early work involved the defacing of cigarette billboards like the BREATHE image that was placed over a Marlboro ad. The girl who worked there made a call. Not for sale!

Ron English has re-imagined a great deal of advertising imagery, like these cereal boxes below.

There were a great many things for sale, but nothing really caught my eye.

The only thing I thought I’d be taking home was this Rick Griffin inspired pin.

Then I noticed that billfold display by the window. It was similar to a display I used to leaf through endlessly at a place called the Postermat on 8th Street when I was a kid.

In there amongst many blank pages were some large prints of English’s iconic kitschy characters with hefty price tags. There were a couple Star Skulls. There was a Rainbow Elvis print. Then I saw this amazing print below!

Generally, I don’t really do the clown thing. But I totally dig this series Ron English did of kids smoking. And here was one of those limited edition signed prints for sale at a fraction of what those others were going for. Kids with blazing stares, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and having a smoke. With palettes of red white and blue, it represents all that is wrong and I think it’s great!

I thought we could roll it up and I’d be on my way. The girl behind the register had only been working there for a couple weeks. I asked if she had a tube since I was on a bike. She wasn’t sure. So she made a call. Is she calling Ron? I didn’t ask. Whoever it was, told her to grab any tube around the place. We found one. But when we pulled the print out of the sleeve from the giant binder, I realized it was on very heavy stock paper. I was psyched at the quality but this was not going to roll. It was too stiff. It would have to travel flat. It’s an unusual size. 14 1/4 X 19 1/2 inches. It should bungee down to the back of the bike. So we grabbed scraps of cardboard and tissue paper along with some plastic and duct tape and wrapped her up.

I got the print packed snug and strapped to the bike. Time to go. It was later than I expected.

Someone painted RON ENGLISH IS A HACK on the side of the shop. Maybe he did it himself.

If you would like to know more about Ron English, watch this documentary. He’s a trip!

I stopped to have a look at a pull-off along the Hudson River. Some dude was checking out my bike. He said he likes the straight twin engines. I suppose his accent was Russian. He wanted me to take his photo with my bike. I was in a hurry and wasn’t taking my helmet off. It was a scene. I couldn’t really see him through my bubble shield as I snapped his camera. They must be terrible photos. Sorry. Then he took some shots in my reflective bubble shield. It does make for a cool photo. But I had no time to waste. The sun was dropping fast behind the mountains and I had a long way to go.

I rode along trying to ignore the discomfort of the dropping temperature. I was really getting cold now. That bad cold where your body temperature is affected. I was going to push through and go all the way home, but there was one more thing I wanted to see in Yonkers, NY. The artist FUMERO recently painted a mural to honor the life of Jef Campion.

Jef Campion AKA ‘Army of One’ was an artist, a first responder firefighter at the WTC, an anti-war activist, and a caring humanitarian.

This mural FUMERO created represents all those aspects of Jef’s life. Jef’s firehouse was stationed in Yonkers.

Jef was a champion for the rights of children. He volunteered endless hours at the Ronald McDonald House.

As an artist, Jef’s red handstamp was becoming an iconic site throughout the city along with his powerful statements with the cutout of the grenade boy from a Diane Arbus photo.

No one really knows why someone decides to end life on their own terms. But that’s the choice Jef made. Jef’s friend and fellow artist “Screwtape” Carl Paoli made a movie about Jef. I first met Jef and Carl in 2012 after the closing of an Adam Dare show in Brooklyn. They were introduced to me by Aimee Becker who sadly passed recently as well. Aimee is also featured in this film as she was photographing this team of dynamic street artists. Have a look at the film Carl made. It is a touching tribute to a great man. We Are An Army of One from Carl Paoli on Vimeo.

Check out Carl Paoli’s site as well. The last time I saw Carl, he handed me a few stickers he made promoting the idea that Banksy is a collaborative effort between Shepard Fairy and Mr. Brainwash.

Spread the word!

One Response to “Ron English’s Beacon Popmart”

  1. great post. makes me want to go to beacon. any idea if garrison is the town featured in the movie Copland?

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