Art in Uncertain Times: A Look Across the Globe at How Artists Created Metaphors For the Future
It feels like the news has been evolving every hour over the past few days in ways that was almost unfathomable weeks ago. In some ways, we have learned to react quickly with the dawn of the digital age and social media, but even this seems to be one of the most pivotal global moments on record. An irony has emerged from this: at a time when being distracted seems like the most honest of reactions (worried about food, shelter, health, friends, family and work), it feels like people are becoming fully aware and less distracted than ever. There is a focus and care that is beginning to emerge, and its incredible to watch.
And in the wake of the new world order and health concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, we're spending a lot of time going through our archives and looking back at the life as it once was. And while doing so, we keep coming across works that feel as if they were warnings about the current situation, a visionary peeks into present-day from not-so-distant past.
We recently shared on our IG the Banksy classic painted in the Chinatown district of Boston during his tour of North America a decade ago (during the time of the release of Exit Through the Gift Shop). The image of a working-class man painting a "cancelled" sign over FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS has never felt more real and destined, a perfect summation of how a lot of people are feeling at present time. But there are countless other examples that in some way portray or serve as a metaphor for what we're going through right now.
Just over a month ago, Juxtapoz was celebrating the release of Madlib and Freddie Gibbs' new Bandana Beats album with a classic animation featuring the iconic Quasimoto character. At the time, it felt more fitting of the California fires and the tumultuous time the state has faced with climate change, and yet know, it takes on a whole new meaning with the shelter-in-place provisions passed in a few places here.
As many as his other works, Friedrich Kunath's The Last Perfect Day is poetically capturing the feeling of the time before all this happened. Baldur Helgason's Cubist in a Room feels like a spot-on metaphor for the quarantine we're undergoing. Stirring The Pot by Trey Abdella shows a yellow rubber glove-wearing hand in the kitchen, as a reminder of the current climate. Stanley Donwood's ominous work for Thom Yorke's The Eraser album feels like a voyeur watching the world fall to its knees.
There is Louise Bonnet's Veil and Thumb, or Chloe Wise's Tormentedly Unatained featuring a prophetic Purell product placement. On another hand, Christian Rex van Minnen's You Sharpen My Knife, I Sharpen Yours is showing one of his Golden Dutch era-inspired portraits in which the head of the subject is replaced by blobby-like gummy candy and tattoo "survival" being visible on the chest. Similar to the abstract and almost playful oddities of van Minnen's work, German painter Cathrin Hoffmann's My Chill is Fake depicting a figure in a worried-like posture, with face mask-like cover on its face seems all to metaphoric.
Dutch artist's Ralf Kokke face-licking couple on Lust For Life suddenly feels like a disturbing, life-threatening scenario but it kind of gets "corrected" with his Slip Of The Tongue piece. At the same time, Lotte Keijzer's critique of social distancing, To Each Their Own, became a paramount guideline for present-day social behavior.
And finally, there is Mark Thomas Gibson's 2017 piece, Washed Up, which seemed like a comic book frame in fine art form at the time, and now has a chilling effect of hands being washed, the evil that may lurk in this daily act, and a mirror to a future of uncertainty.
Compiled by Sasha Bogojev & Evan Pricco (we updated the gallery with a few more works, including Paco Pomet, Eleanor Swordy and Brian Robertson)