Barnaby Furnas tackles an ancient and omnipresent subject in his
monumental painting, APOCALYPSE. The apocalyptic worldview can be traced back to the fifteenth-century BC, Persian prophet Zoroaster, who spoke of a cosmic battle between good and evil. The last book in the Bible is named Book of Apocalypse (or Revelation) and it foretells of a future filled with unprecedented violence that devolves into catastrophic and terminal combat and warfare. Artists throughout history have also been drawn to visualizing the cataclysmic events in which evil forces are destroyed, as seen in Hieronymus Bosch's Last Judgment (1504), Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1535..41) in the Sistine Chapel, and Peter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death (1562).
Fumas shares Bosch's position as a master of the monstrous and the discoverer of the unconscious. His nightmarish images seem to possess an inexplicable surrealistic power, featuring horrendous
torture and carnal mutilations drenched in blood. The artist states that "sexual humiliation has always been the torment of choice in depictions of hell," and he has included them in this painting. At first, the work appears to be a loud, colorful, and abstract composition, but soon the eye discerns decapitated heads on posts, bodies impaled on stakes, dismembered arms and legs, erect penises, and spurting blood. Furnas's apocalyptic vision presents what he calls "tormentors" slaughtering the damned individuals in a carnage of blood. These tormentors are monster-like figures with penises shooting chartreuse laser-like beams of destructive force. The tormentors' savagery serves to feed the two "skeletors."
These two brown, stick-like skeletors have yellow halos around their heads, and tower above the slaughter while they devour body parts and spew blood from apertures in their forms. Above, in the clear blue sky, an ominous, sphincter-like sun expels thousands of unwanted bodies that fall into the annihilation happening on the ground. Also in the sky, at the top edge of the canvas, are a number of pink feet, and some black feet segregated to the right side, that are the "saved ones" ascending into the heavens. A second painting, FLOOD, accompanies APOCALYPSE, and it is the final chapter of the visual narrative. Here we see the sun in a small patch of blue sky, above a mass of thick, churning, liquid red. The tormentors and skeletors have accomplished their assignment and reduced mankind to nothing but gelatinous blood. Furn.as's apocalypse, however, is
not completely about the intangible or relative concepts of heaven and hell or good and bad. His vision suggests the consequencesof political and theological power mongering, and prejudiced and bigoted attitudes. Furnas's caricatured representations of evil reduces its terrifying implications, but also serves as a defiant warning with a humanistic basis.
Barnaby Furnas studied art at the School of Visual Arts and received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University, New York, in 2000. He has had recent one-artist exhibitions at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, and Modern Art Inc., London; and his work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among others. Furnas lives and works in Brooklyn.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator, Lever House Art Collection
Pigmented urethane on linen, 12 x 28 feet The Lever House Art Collection
Pigmented urethane and ink on linen, 11 x 23 feet The Lever House Art Collection