Artist Ron English is world-renowned for his mashups of high and low cultural touchstones, superhero mythology, and art history, not to mention his own arsenal of original characters, dubbed “POPaganda.”
His work is found throughout the world in street art, in museums, in movies, books and television, including his character MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in the hit movie “Supersize Me,” and Abraham Obama, the fusion of America’s 16th and 44th presidents.
English recently contributed to Jersey City’s Mural Arts Program completing a 60-foot mural on the side of a building adjacent to basketball courts at 16th and Erie streets.
The Jersey City mural depicts Elefanka, an orange elephant with butterfly wings for ears, and a green teddy bear dinosaur hybrid. It was celebrated on Thursday, Aug. 8 with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop during a free public POP-Up gallery at The Enclave rental building at 675 Monmouth St.
More than 100 people gathered on the indoor/outdoor amenity deck. The event showcased English’s work and was sponsored by the building’s development team, BNE Real Estate Group, Hoboken Brownstone Company, and McKinney Properties.
“Ron English is one of the best street artists in the world who lived in Jersey City for some time,” said Mayor Fulop. “It is great to have him back in our city as part of the Mural Arts Program, which has become one of the best in the country.”
Fulop said the city pursued English for a number of months to bring him to Jersey City to create a mural.
“I thought we’d have an angle on getting Ron here, being that he was very familiar with Jersey City,” he said. “We thought he had a comfort level in Jersey City, he lived in Jersey City, and he knew Jersey City. He’s a cheerleader for Jersey City, so we thought we had an opportunity to get him … and I couldn’t be more excited about Ron being here.”
“When you think about the street artists that we’ve had here over the last couple of years, Ron is at the top,” Fulop said. “There is nobody involved in the street art world that doesn’t respect Ron. They think Ron is at the top of the game, and look at him as kind of a pioneer in this world, and really give him all the props in the world because, at the end of the day, he is one of the founders and leaders in this entire movement.”
English said he was happy to come back to Jersey City. He began coming to the area when he lived in Manhattan in the 1990s to visit the “one eleven building.” There, hundreds of artist had studios,and they would host openings at the same time “trying to see who could throw the best party,” calling it “some of the funnest times in my life.”
It’s partially because of those times that he ended up moving to Jersey City when his lease expired in Manhattan, despite many other friends who opted for Brooklyn.
He said he had a lot of friends in Jersey City at the time, and he made the right choice in moving.
“I just looked at this city and saw so much potential,” English said. “All these great buildings, all these great artists, and you know, I don’t think in the time I was here I was able to achieve what has come to pass now, but I hope in some way we were able to plant the seeds.”
“This is the Jersey City that I wanted to see,” he said. “This is the art married with real estate, and in it everybody coming together and being on the same page … I am overwhelmed by what Jersey City’s become.”
Initiated in 2013 and funded by a Clean Communities Grant, the Jersey City Mural Arts Program (JCMAP) is an initiative that links established and emerging local, national, and international mural artists with property owners citywide.
“When we started this we thought about attracting some great artists that are known internationally,” said Fulop, “and then at the same time not neglecting the local artists that are here in Jersey City. If you think about the 140 plus artists or the 140 plus murals that are around Jersey City, 50 percent are from artists outside of Jersey City — many of which have brands nationally and internationally — and 50 percent are from Jersey City and Hudson County.” He added, “In many ways, some of the quality of the art is indistinguishable and that speaks to the arts community here in Jersey City .”
In fact, artists from 16 countries, seven U.S. States, and Jersey City have created murals.
The program has attracted artists such as Kobra, Shepard Fairey, MadC, and Pixel Pancho.
The Ron English mural, and others like it in Jersey City, offer accessible, authentic artwork that city officials believe can help enhance and re-energize neighborhoods through creativity and aesthetic beauty.
“[Jersey City’s] fabric is deeply rooted in the arts, which is growing stronger and more impressive each year,” said Jonathan Schwartz, a partner at BNE Real Estate Group. “Mayor Fulop and his administration have done an incredible job embracing and supporting the arts, particularly with his Jersey City Mural Arts Program initiative. It has helped put Jersey City in the global arts conversation, and we’re delighted to help celebrate the world-class talent it has attracted by welcoming to Ron English.”