Driving down La Brea, I averted my eyes from a homeless man begging for change in the middle of the street to the street lamp flag-ads ("flads" as I like to call them). I don’t know what I was more shocked to discover – that Pasadena had a museum of modern art (PMCA), that said museum had the audacity to put up ads across the street from LACMA or that they were giving an artist like Mark Ryden a retrospective. I would have been less awestruck had I seen a flad for a retrospective of the work of Mitch Ryder.

How to describe Mark Ryden … his characters are like plumper Tim Burton creations with eye-implants from an anime. Or, conversely, Burton’s drawings are anorexic variations of Ryden’s imaginings. Like Burton, Ryden’s work may seem cartoonish or kid-friendly at first, but there’s a deeper pathos underneath the comic pallet.

Wondertoonel is Ryden’s first solo museum exhibition, unleashing 30 of his paintings – from his Bunnies & Bees, The Meat Show and Blood series – upon the unsuspecting crowd. Expect Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ juggling fleshy meat and cute white bunnies torn apart, their crimson blood staining their immaculate fur coats. Imagine Hieronymus Bosch drawing Care Bear cartoons.

"The Magic Circus" is the work featured on the flad and perhaps defines Ryden most clearly – there are irate bees, a bunny that looks like it’s been through Sid’s (the disturbed child from Toy Story) Frankensteinian lab, a black stuffed animal dog I would not want to meet in my child’s toy chest and, among other carnivalesque doodads, a porcelain doll of a girl standing in a box labeled "Meat Show." My favorite, however, is "Santa Worm," which is just as you imagine it.

The Pasadena Museum of California Art is located at 490 E. Union St., in Pasadena, (626) 568-3665. Hours: Wed.-Sun., noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.pmcaonline.org. Price: $6 for adults; $4 for seniors (65+) and students with valid ID; free to children under 12 and PMCA museum members; free admission the first Friday of the month. Parking is available at the museum.