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Monday, October 18, 2010

The End of Time

One of the most powerful subjects in art has always been "the end of time".  Dating back to well before Michelangelo's Last Judgment, the apocalypse
 has been painted, written about, drawn about, filmed, sung, and translated into about every area of the fine arts with the possible exception of architecture.  Apocalyptic buildings might be a stretch, though certainly memorials exist to the holocaust, which perhaps comes close.  Of course, the catalyst for the most recent "end is coming" thinking was the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st.   Just as the news media doesn't care much for optimism, the same applies to artists.  Even though this millennium arrived without incident, it is unlikely artists will stop thinking about the end of time.  They'll simply find new ways of interpreting it.

Raphael, Vonnegut, Updike, and Orson Wells have all have all tread in the path of Biblical prophecy, imagining the end as an act of God, an act of man, as a heavenly reward, or as hellish earthly terror.  In London, shortly before the new millenium, there was a whole wall of paintings at the Illustration House, a Soho gallery, where science fiction artist Vincent Di Fate guided a private tour of the end of time. Di Fate's paintings borrowed  from Michelangelo's Last Judgement, from Raphael's St. Michael, and from William Blake's gloomy, 1805 drawing, The Number of the Beast is 666, among others.  From literature, he borrowed from H.G.Wells' War of the World and Edgar Allen Poe's The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.  From the movies Di Fate referred to Independence Day, Dr. Strangelove, and On the Beach.  From music he drew from songs such as Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall and Prince's 1999.   W.B. Yeats wrote of bloody anarchy in his poem The Second Coming  and in the area of drama, avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman, whose many works include the apocalyptic Symphony of Rats, was also a source.  The man did his homework.   
Today, apocalyptic types have December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar, to worry about.  Unlike prophets, artists don't have to accurately predict the future. They just have to reflect our feelings about it.  So get out your brushes and shades of black, but hurry, this will all passe' in two or three years...unless...

The copyrighted work of Vincent Di Fate can be seen at:

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