On December 12, 2012 Mayan writings prophecied the world would end. A whole industry of preppers, books, crazies and TV specials sprung up and experienced a real Apocalypse of its own when nothing happened.
In the literary Apocalyptic tradition, there's usually cataclysms, plagues, floods and other high drama, Wrath-of-God type events to close out an Age. In the novel "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, there was enough drama to reduce the world (and oceans) to ashes, including the Gulf of Mexico. In this cthonic landscape stragglers, including the two protagonists in the story, struggle to survive, gather and conserve meager resources. Murder and cannibalism are commonplace, as are shifty characters with the names of Biblical prophets. The father often wonders whether he will have the courage to shoot his son to prevent him from suffering in the event of a capture. The son, who was born after the conflagration, simply accepts the reality of the world as it is.
Gallery 221, @ HCC Dale Mabry Campus is showing "Carry the Fire", of works by Mike Covello. The title of the show refers to the litmus test the father and son character in the novel apply to those they meet, as if they were members of a Zoroastrian cult, but the metaphor is do they still carry the remnants and or seeds of humanity?
Covello talked about this at length during his speech at the gallery. Part of it in the context of the book, part in the context of the current state of the arts. There have been several essays about the Artpocalypse recently, how the arts have lost relevance, become a masturbatory exercise, mired in fame and chronyism, and more. The artist sees a similarity between the status of the duo of travelers in the scorched world and artists. Some artists, the truer, or purer ones, if you will. We, as artists and viewers, must also carry that fire.
In the Abrahamic traditions, Nature (The givens) is viewed as a medium- and gift- for Mankind to transform into useful forms.The artist affirmed the view that Nature is disorder and Man represents Order, which to me seems exactly backwards,and is part of why there has been such a strong, albeit oscillating, tie between Art and Nature over time.
Covello's complex paintings engage this dialog via structure, colors, forms and more. He said this is deliberate and that he wants the viewer to spend time with the work. Has Art experienced an Apocalypse? Those who think of earlier art forms represent the apex of Art surely think so, as do those who believe culture is in a downward spiral. The people burning Elvis records in the early 60s thought so, at least until the Rolling Stones arrived.
Apocalypses (religious or otherwise) are like resistant subductions between a familiar past and an uncertain future. They are plentiful in recorded history, therefore serve a purpose. They are a form of temporal pagination or marker between two eras. Those that are being left behind (like the Father in The Road) have the gratifying distinction of being the last of their kind and having known the last of the great days. If it involves death, and all do at least metaphorically, the loneliness of a personal passing is lessened by the knowledge of a collective death. We will be seeing many others in the near future. In the Arts, too.
All images shown are the work of Michael Covello and are copyrighted, all rights reserved.
--- Luis Gottardi