John Seal | BAD DREAMS OF A BETTER TOMORROW
KÖNIG LONDON | 4.2.–21.3.2020
BAD DREAMS OF A BETTER TOMORROW
4 FEBRUARY – 21 MARCH 2020
PREVIEW: TUESDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2020, 6 – 8 PM
KÖNIG LONDON presents Bad Dreams of a Better Tomorrow, an exhibition of
recent paintings by Los Angeles-based artist John Seal, on view February 4th
through March 7th, 2020. This is Seal‘s second solo exhibition with KÖNIG
GALERIE, and his first at KÖNIG LONDON.
True to its title, Bad Dreams of a Better Tomorrow introduces viewers to
utopic vistas where ragged items of furniture and obsolescent gadgets
become the cornerstone of a life not quite lived, but only imagined. The
chairs, lamps, and cups that figure in Seal’s paintings are of limited use;
but they’re all we would have left to start civilization afresh. At once
futuristic and kitsch, these objects constitute our inheritance.
Seal’s wry vision of paradise on earth points to the obsession technocratic
cultures have with their own destruction. His paintings are intended to
be both humorous and tragic. Avoiding the easy pitfall of bathos, a painting
like A Force as Light as a Feather (2019) suggests the aftermath of
some unspecified apocalypse. Thematizing a kind of survivalist kitsch, the
painting radiates a quiet intensity, showcasing the all-too-human human
frailty inherent in organizing a world from cultural detritus.
In As If I Was The Breeze That Held Their Wings Up (2018), the array of
butterflies foregrounded against an almost impressionistic landscape has
both a literal and symbolic meaning. On the one hand, the butterflies
symbolize how we reduce the natural world to a mere taxonomy for human
consumption. On the other, they quite literally embody painting’s singular
importance in developing a critical awareness of our perception of
nature. The arrangement of butterflies elegantly creates a conceptual grid,
through which the distinction between nature-in-itself and the “natural”
things idealized by humans is brought into focus.
Fruits, gardens, chairs, lamps, cups, butterflies — all these play a unique
role as exemplars of nature conforming to a human purpose. The Victorian-style
gardens that appear in these works approximate a certain degree of “wilderness,”
but they only feature cultivated plants. Although these plants
are at times quite lovely, they encapsulate an estranged way of comporting
ourselves in relation to the living world. Bending to our delight, brought
under our control, gardens and fruits function no differently than modern
domestic conveniences: they’re a parody of paradise.
Bringing viewers closer to nature, Bad Dreams of a Better Tomorrow leaves
us asking: What kind of nature is this? Far from simplifying the intricate
interweaving of nature and humanity, Seal’s paintings indicate that
we need to develop a more comprehensively historical attitude toward
our environment. Nature is not a walled-off utopia that holds us at a
distance, or an abstract garden that mimics its own recursive joys. It
exists apart from good and bad taste.