An Intro to the End

Posted by Benji, Michael, and Weston , Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:03 PM

"Art is social" according to the historian James Adams "because it is th result of a relationship between an artist and his time." Indeed, this man was quite wise in his words. Art in it's many forms, is a beautiful thing. Whether it be painting, sculpture, architecture or even music, it allows for expression of emotions in ways unmatched by any other medim. Through such works of art, we can glimpse into the mind of the artist, a window, if you may, into not only what the artist had been feeling or thinking at the time, but also the attitudes and views of the society in which he or she was brought up in. However, one reoccurring theme appears quite prominently throughout history, even as different movements of art with different characteristics matured through the centuries: the apocalypse (the end of the world). So why is it that we continue interest in such a bleak concept? Through the settings of many different societies, the idea of the apocalypse has reappeared with influence from mythology, religion, conflict, and even characteristics of the society at the time.

The Last Judgement, Leonardo Da Vinci (Renaissance: 1541)

Posted by Benji, Michael, and Weston 6:17 AM

"The Last Judgment" depicts the second coming of Christ, who stands in the center of the painting with the angels and saints radiating outwards. Despite the obvious Christian influences from the Bible, the painting incorporates several other religious figures from Roman and Greek mythology. The most obvious example is the boatman Charon in the middle of the bottom of the painting, who ferried people across the river Styx into the classical equivalent of the afterlife. Charon is put in a slightly different context in which he ferries the damned down to hell whilst Christ takes the saved to heaven. As the title of the piece suggests, it depicts what the artist interprets as how the events of Judgment Day, or the Day of Atonement will unfold. When put into historical context, Judgement Day is often considered near synonymous to the apocalypse, though it actually refers to the final and eternal judgement by God of all nations. In this painting, it appears in both religious and mythological form. In fact the apocalypse, in a way is as much mythological as it is religious, and it appears in documentation as far into the past as ancient Greek mythology. Thus, because the Renaissance was marked by a rise in classicism philosophy, in which a massive surge of re-interest in the classics blossomed, elements of Greek mythology make a rather natural cameo in Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece "The Last Judgement."

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Viktor Vasnetsov (Romanticism 1887)

Posted by Benji, Michael, and Weston 6:16 AM

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was painted in the time of the Russian Revivalism, which was also in the same time as the Romantist movement. The Russians were a semi-religious nation. Also they had hard lives especially the peasants who were trying to make it by. This would make the painting which looks very unhappy a good interpretation of not only what the Russian people were going through but how the Russian people would view the Apocalypse if it happened. As well as the peasant, the artist’s father was a priest in rural Russia so Viktor Vasnetsov had a good idea about the bible along with the fact that he probably suffered through most of what the four horsemen were. The four horsemen are in the bible, depicted as four signs for the apocalypse to come, a red horse with his rider symbolized war and slaughter. A black horse being ridden by a man who was carrying scales represents the scarcity of food or famine. Next there is the white horse which is ridden by a deathly man which symbolizes death. The final rider however is the one that the artist would not have encountered. This is the antichrist riding atop a white horse. Not only would the artist, Viktor Vasnetsov had seen this, but most people throughout Europe would have seen for the most part 2 of the 4 horses, death and starvation since war was not very prevalent then. Also, with the rest of Europe, came the Industrial Revolution. As we mentioned before, Viktor Vasnetsov was a Russian Revivalist. This is pretty much a Russian form of Romanticism as well as several other artistic movements. Many Romanticists wanted to return back to the old ways of the gothic times which we believed was a dark time, in fact the gothic era of art was during the dark ages. However, during this time, people also became wary, possibly even fearful of the rapid Industrialization, and some began to speculate the lasting effects of such Industrialization.

The Apocalypse: War and the Machine, Gertrude Barrer (Abstract Expressionism 1949)

Posted by Benji, Michael, and Weston 6:16 AM

This painting contains many elements that can be interpreted in different ways due to the style of the art: Abstract Expressionism. When first examining the work of art, it can be observed that there is an overwhelming clash of color and chaos. Painted during 1949, this was right between the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War. Society had been shaken badly, and barely had enough time to recover before another conflict threatened to shake the fragile calmness in the social environment. Upon in depth analysis, we notice a river slicing through the center of the painting, which can be interpreted to represent said fragile calmness. The river appears to run along a futuristic-like metropolitan covered in an orange substance. This orange substance may represent the blood spilt during WWII. Above the river there appears to be a strange looking figure that we can only attribute to be the mutated aardvark more commonly known as Otis.
Otis the Aardvark, Evil Mastermind.
Seriously though, it looks to be some sort of manifestation of the harbinger of doom. Given the context of the era, this “aardvark harbinger thing” maybe interpreted as the Soviet Union, seeing as how the artist was American. In fact, the American view on the U.S.S.R. at the time was quite suspicious, and many Americans quite literally thought that the Soviet Union would bring an end to the world as we knew it. Not to say that the Soviet Union never had the same opinions about us. This was a time where society was plagued by two consecutive World Wars, and another conflict appeared to be right around the corner. People were quite wary, and in such a time, it doesn't seem out of place that they would feel that the continued conflict would bring the end of the world.

Yearning for Zion, Ricky Allman (Modernism/Modern Cubist 2006)

Posted by Benji, Michael, and Weston 6:15 AM

The interesting thing about modern art is that it can be interpreted in a nearly infinite amount of ways. Ricky Allman... No adjective exists in the English language to describe this man. He is a painter, yes, more specifically a modern art painter, but he includes characteristics most prominently from the Cubism movement, in his own works (which Weston says he can do too). However, Allman’s works are quite equally indescribable with adjectives. Especially the piece which he calls “Yearning for Zion.” Although at first glance, this work of art may not appear to be connected with any sort of end to anything, you know it may have something to do with the end of the world when the artist specifically calls himself a painter of exclusively, the apocalypse. Then, you may or may not begin to wonder what shenanigans this man may be up to. Nonetheless, Allman is in fact mocking the very society we know and are so familiar with. However, he brings up a valid point within his painting through his hidden antics. He proves his point by adding objects that resemble characteristic of modern society placed in absurd situations such as his use of many boxes near the bottom right hand corner that look like an escalator. The escalator also looks like it is heading for the top of a mountain. Today, some concern has arisen over how people are only becoming more lazy and over reliant on technology. In his painting, Allman exaggerates this laziness by pointing out how technology is being implemented to overcome a task that requires a bit of effort. In the past, climbing mountains used to be a challenge, a test of endurance, and a great form of exercise. In recent years, however, people have discovered and taken advantage of ways to eliminate much of the effort needed to accomplish the task. Yet such laziness also appears in much simpler tasks, such as electric can openers, when the manual ones worked just fine. In addition, next to the elevator-like structure, Allman paints another structure somewhat resembling a gaming system. Now, quite a few controversies have risen over the problems that video gaming consoles present, and we feel that Allman wanted to point this out. In the background, there appears to be an erupting volcano of some sort, suggesting an imminent end to the odd scene the artist has painted. Allman, is in fact, a skeptic of today's society, and through his artwork, he ingeniously displays how our flaws will eventually lead to our demise.

Another interpretation of Allman's painting may be his attempted portrayal of the subject of mass hype in recent years: December 21, 2012. For those of you who don't know, in which case, we may be forced to assume that you have been living in a hole for the past ten years, December 21, 2012 is the end of the Mayan long count calendar. According to pop culture, the Mayans actually predicted the end of the world, and numerous screenplays and literature have been written over such an idea.

It is evident that the apocalypse has evolved from its confinements in it's historical context. From ancient mythology to religion, the idea of the apocalypse has traveled through time, and has emerged as an entire subculture in the society of the modern day.