Take shelter

John Brosio, Tornado and Ferris Wheel, 2023

Imagine living your life under the continuous shadow of physical or spiritual annihilation. Imagine being able to go about your business fairly effectively and check off all the items on your To Do list as the day goes on despite the funnel cloud descending from the sky behind you. That’s more or less the feel of John Brosio’s world, which can be startlingly lovely in the foreground, partly because the darkness of that nightmarish backdrop sets off the carnival lights so beautifully. He paints nightmarish scenes that also depict tediously ordinary things happening before hell breaks loose. Those hellish possibilities often seem to loom behind the most ordinary tableaus, the sublime potential of catastrophe giving even a nondescript parking lot a marvelous aura of cozy familiarity by contrast–since it may soon be obliterated. Other times, he shows you just a huge Big Gulp sitting behind a check cashing service, tall as a water tower, inexplicably as large as King Kong. It’s a lot cooler to look at when it’s that tall.

John Brosio’s slightly skewed and darkly funny visions of everyday apocalypse will be on view at Arcadia Contemporary for a few more days. They can be both funny and chilling in the same way that it’s amusing to watch children devote hours to building worlds with toys only to destroy them in a few seconds, which makes the whole creation/destruction cycle seem amusing and contained and safely translated into entertainment, the way disasters can feel in a theater. It’s no surprise that J.J. Abrams is one of Brosio’s collectors. I love his tornado paintings the most, partly because of the structural simplicity of the black funnel descending from above, ready to vacuum everything in its path, but also because tornadoes once taught us there is no place like home. Brosio’s paintings all tend to remind me of that chant from the Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure Brosio believes in our ability to get back home, though.

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