Black Balloons

Shag unveils a darker and more personal side through a new and dynamic exhibit titled Autumn’s Come Undone – a thought provoking show title that seems to challenge people to look at the passing seasons of their own lives and consider the inevitable black end we all must acknowledge.

One of the most vibrant works, Black Balloons, is a dark, yet festive creation with a tremendous amount of composition and depth, much like Shag’s previous take on Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The work is also creatively layered – a meandering river filled with swordfish and a giant squid-like creature in the foreground; dormant trees and heaven-reaching fish bones in the middle that cast stretching shadows ; and a rollercoaster with subtle peeks contrasted against the exaggerated ones of the  otherworldly mountain range in the background. The overall feel is reminiscent of a shadowy late 19th century Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte where colorful picnic umbrellas are replaced by 32 symbolic black balloons, and the warm glow of an afternoon sun is replaced by the drab gray of an hourless autumn day.

As with many works by Shag, there’s often a story unfolding, and in Black Balloons there seems to be several. There is a tremendous amount of symbolism throughout, with some very surreal touches, like the three men climbing ropes of black liquid, attempting to reach the orange basket of a departing black hot air balloon. There are also two men riding high above the back of an animal that symbolizes longevity, a rhinoceros, taking aim with bow and arrow at the two black balloons that have come untethered, as if to conqueror their own over-the-hill representations of mortality.

The overall composition seems to speak of life’s limited timeline and the race against it. Most of the people sitting each have their own black balloon. The nude woman seems to have not yet accepted her own mortality, while an unknowing gentleman just to her right, seems quite curious to the unfolding events. Interestingly, youthfulness is woven through the entire piece on rollercoaster tracks, as the silhouettes of carefree riders raise their hands to the sky, enjoying the thrill and seemingly unconcerned with life’s undoing.

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2 Responses to “Black Balloons”

  1. pjk Says:

    Looks to be a very interesting set of work coming out. Definitely a dark themed departure for Shag, going the direction of Edward Gorey in some respects. Amazon’s got a good price on the forthcoming (10/15) book.

  2. tikichick Says:

    Excellent blog, Shagwatch. I can’t wait for this exhibit.

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