Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
That’s the poem Fire and Ice by Robert Frost, part of one of my first attempts at combining art and poetry almost thirty years ago. I later used Fire and Ice as the background text for a small series of works on paper as part of my Mirror / Mirror series in 2007.
The poem’s been on my mind again for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that I have done a bad job lately about sharing my poetry as well as my visual art. So, if you haven’t yet, make sure you see the publications page on my site.
Since it’s now 2021 I’m back to Robert Frost. if any era has the need for artists to look at the end of the world, again, it’s post-covid culture.
Today, for Part 1 of this talk, we’ll discuss the end of the world and new beginnings in my series ROAR!
THE END IS NEAR
Pre-COVID, I’d travel to Manhattan for my art fix many times a year. I’d also go see Times Square while I was there to take in the lights and crowds. Sure, only tourists go to Times Square. But being from the tiny island of Key West I needed to get as much of the city in as possible. There’s not much better for a swarm of people than Times Square on a weekend night.
I’d always see the same guy wearing the sandwich board sign. The End is Near.
The funny thing is, during COVID most people aren’t talking about the end of the world. Is it as simple as only when things are good people talk about the end of the world? And when things are bad, people talk about the world getting ready to start again? Or, when things are bad they just talk about doing the dishes and missing their favorite sushi?
INFLUENCES FOR THE END
One of my favorite depictions in recent history about the End of the World is the book The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. What I like best--and what has been so interesting in the past year during COVID-- is how ordinary and darkly funny the characters are. It’s an average day in suburbia in many ways, even during the rapture.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t read Perrotta’s books like The Wishbones or the Abstinence Teacher yet you’re missing out.
One of my other favorites is the visual art of John Baldessari. I got to see his Hot and Cold show in person at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York during one of those THE END IS NEAR Times Square visits.
Among my biggest artistic influences, John Baldessari combines rigorous artistic command over the elements of design with a range of emotion between the absurd and the comically tragic. I doubt be meant to prophesize the end of the world. His late works sometimes seem that way though.
LOOKING DEEPER AT JOHN BALDESSARI
This month marks a year since John Baldessari’s passing. A literal giant presence in the art world, seeing his PURE BEAUTY exhibition at The Met is among my top 5 museum experiences of all time.
The final volume of his Catalogue Raisonné was released here in the past few weeks and you can find out more at the Goodman gallery website. They have a great webinar up right now, detailing Baldessari’s life and work that you should definitely check out.
Two of his series are especially important to my new series, ROAR,
The first, People with Reason missing features large swaths of people erased. That and the double entendre play on the word reason—or lack of reason--seems to anticipate our pandemic society.
What comes after the end of the world then? A new beginning. My new work, ROAR is my way of recalling the original roaring 20’s and looking forward to a new era of joy.
In an orgy of excess and debauchery, devils conduct orchestras, people gulp from glasses, lovers get closer. People weep at the trials of yesterday and clump together, kiss, Don party hats, and prepare for the time of their life.
ROLLING CREDITS ON COVID (WE HOPE)
Remember, in his book The Leftovers Tom Perrotta writes, “Things change all the time - abruptly, unpredictably, and often for no good reason.”
Let’s hope your changes are good in the roaring period ahead. Make sure you siubscribe for more about art at the end of the world, and art at the beginning of the next one.