I doubt Palehorse president and designer, Chris Parks, knew what he was in for when he asked local artists to submit apocalyptic-themed works for the grand re-opening of The Pale Horse Graphic Design Studio & Gallery (formerly Blackout Creations). The gallery, which sits on the crosshairs of Central and MLK in downtown St. Pete, was filled beyond capacity with a tattooed crew dressed in the height of art-school fashion, drinking beer and eating cupcakes.
The 2nd Coming art show took its name from Revelations, but many of the darkly comic works seemed to have more in common with Dr. Strangelove. There were plenty of sickles and demonic figures, but most were grinning like deviant comic book heroes. Like Revelations, the works were jam-packed with abstract, obscure and pop-culture symbolism, but with a modern twist. Instead of the doomsday beast being marked 666 in reference to Nero, Chris Park's henchman rode a horse branded with oil company logos. Instead of a demonic horse, Erik Jones' sinisterly sexy apocalyptic rider straddled a wicked motorcycle. The cloven hooves were severed pigs feet in mason jars, hand-tattooed by Allen Hampton with colorful sailor images.
Undoubtedly some artist of the old guard will view this show as evidence that modern art is going to hell in a hand basket. I see it as one of visual art's latest reincarnations. Many of the works were perfected on computers then printed on canvas. Others pieces took their style more from graphic novels and tattoo artists than any of the masters hanging in the Louvre. And though the styles were nontraditional, they represented a return to form. No pieces were done in the free-form styles of such conceptual artists as Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothco.
If artists half a century ago were asked to contribute to an apocalypse-themed show, they'd likely borrow images from the Holocaust or the nuclear bombing of Japan. It's not that modern artists are further removed from the prospect of worldwide annihilation. Quite the contrary. Nuclear weapons are more powerful than ever. Climate change is already occurring. Overpopulation overflows every boarder, increasing the prospect of conflict over space and resources. Yet when the artists of this Unknown Generation are asked to portray doomsday they produce works that face annihilation with a smile and a rainbow of color beyond oblivion-black and blood-red. We have learned to live with our impending destruction, and it has become something of a joke. We have seen that with every end comes a beginning. With the closing of one art gallery comes the opening of another. When Armageddon comes we will not be caught whimpering in dark fallout shelters. We'll be guzzling beer and eating cupcakes at a banging blowout party.
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