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Apocalypse in Art
One of the most powerful subjects in art has always been "the end of time". Dating back at least to Michelangelo's Last Judgment it's 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. 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 earthy terror. In London there is a whole wall of paintings at the Illustration House, a Soho gallery, where science fiction artist Vincent Di Fate guides a private tour of the end of time.
Di Fate's paintings borrow from Michaelangelo'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 borrows from H.G.Wells' "War of the Worlds," and Edgar Allen Poe's "The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" among others. From the movies he refers to Independence Day, Dr. Strangelove, and On the Beach. From music he draws 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, is also a source. The man has done his homework.
Of course the catalyst for all this "the end is coming" thinking is the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st. Just as newspapers don't care much for optimism the same applies to artists. Even if the next millennium arrives without incident, it's unlikely artists will stop thinking about the end of time. They'll simply find new ways of interpreting it. 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..

Contributed by Lane, Jim
2 March 1998


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