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The End of the World (Part 2) and COVID Art



So, what comes after the end of the world? The End of the World Part 2, obviously. As I mentioned last time, artists and writers have dealt with this question extensively, even before COVID-19 and COVID art.


Even before the pandemic, in the book The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta’s characters find they are still there after the rapture. So what now?


When the world ends and you look up and find you’re still there— do you just go on? Or do you change everything?


Make sure you visit Eidsvig Art and follow my IGTV for all the parts in this series.


ROAR and THE JAZZ AGE


My new series, ROAR, asks this question in a hopeful way. Returning to the glamorous trends of the 1920’s, ROAR sees the upcoming era as the ROARING 20’s part 2.


The mountain lion licking their lips in the bottom right of the picture brings us back to the action of the image over and over again. We scan down and there they are.


All of us are hungry for a different, better world now. As we look through the action of the layered narrative, each time we read the art we return to the lion. He salivates in anticipation, looking for a kiss, or staring mesmerized at an orchestra of music.


Everyone I talk to lately speaks of longing for crowds, travel, music festivals. We all have a deep desire to connect and go out.


As the inhabitants of ROAR tip their cups and wrap themselves in elegance, romance, and revelry, they leave those old worries behind.


BACK TO BALDESSARI


John Baldessari’s Hot and Cold is an art series I mentioned last time in connection with the poet Robert Frost. These works predate COVID and are one of the best representations of what happened during quarantine. The polarity of contemporary society is represented here with reds and blues, fire and ice. This is what always brings me back to the Frost poem. More than that though, the text against the images in Baldessari, and the tension between the contents make these pictures so representative of our moment.


Forget Emperor Nero “Fiddling While Rome Burns”, these works include the most trivial daily conversations set against environmental cataclysm. They use words and phrases like “Tinnines or “Perfectly Still” alongside screenplay dialogue about what things are called, or what should be brought.


The everyday talk goes on and on while volcanoes pump molten lava, or ice melts cleave precariously.


There are impossibly flat negative spaces that flip between subject and background. There are almost messy painterly moments in the pictures too.


These surface conversations don’t just reveal casual relationships, they operate to depict a deeper message— much like fathomless depths of lava, or parts of a massive iceberg lurking beneath what we can see.


My favorite moment in all this impending disaster is the simple phrase “OKEY-DOKEY.”


ELEGANCE IN THE MUNDANE IN COVID ART


All of this is background on how my new series, ROAR, came to be. The first large pop expressionist narrative of the series is this piece combining design work and fashion looks from the 1920’s with vintage interactions of love and life.


You’ll hear music and sounds of all sorts-- horns, gasps, sighs, and sobs of relief. Just like with the Baldessari, there are large flat areas devoid of detail as well as painterly color schemes.


The stories and images in ROAR push and pull off the flatness of the picture plane. They remind us of the critiques of the original Roaring 20’s, with jazz culture being described as shallow or crazy or overly materialistic.


The start of the ROAR series is a celebration of excess. People don’t drink, they gulp. They touch. They look longingly. This isn't COVID art but post-COVID celebration prep.


Strike up the band, put on your best dress, and call all your friends. ROAR’s optimistic look at what happens next combines a contemporary pop art palette with black and white ART DECO influences. The result is a remake of the best parts of whatever set of 20’s you’re living in at the moment.


RISE FROM THE ASHES


One of Baldessari’s first seminal pieces was the cremation project. In 1970 he cremated all of his paintings in his possession created between 1953 and 1966.


Not only did he bake cookies from the ashes, but he also took out an obituary affidavit in the newspaper. The memorial plaque commemorating the moment reads more like a grave to the man himself than to the art.


What happened next? Baldessari rose from the ashes. Raised deeply religiously, the rebirth from ashes and the cookies like wafers in his art are steeped with symbolism.


Our lesson for post-COVID culture is to begin again once we find the end. COVID art and post-COVID work from artists get us closer.


I hope you’re embracing your days at the start of 2020 plus 1. Come back next time for part three in the trilogy on ROAR and new beginnings.


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©2021 by Kurt Cole Eidsvig