In the early days of the Covid 19 lockdown, most of us — not just here in Manhattan but around the globe — were spending close to 24 hours a day in our homes. It was during this time that photos began appearing on the Internet and Instagram depicting places like Times Square and other generally heavily-populated ‘tourist destinations’ in states of complete abandonment. It was as if civilization as we know it had ceased to exist, and our cities been left to the elements. The world was looking more apocalyptic by the day. The only thing missing were the zombies.
I thought of these images immediately when I got an email from Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery about their latest exhibition, Quarantine by artist Scott Listfield — who is known for his paintings featuring a lone exploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references.
The gallery is walking distance from my home, so I made an appointment to see these enigmatic and compelling paintings in person. I was the only person in the gallery at the time of my visit, which made the experience even more powerful. To say that Scott Listfield’s work encourages imaginative extrapolation is an understatement.
Quarantine chronicles the adventures of the artist’s central protagonist, the lone astronaut, as he navigates a post- apocalyptic landscape reflective of our current world.
Symbolic references to the Covid-19 pandemic, protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, and general unease over the American political climate abound.
Protected by his helmet and suit, the astronaut explores these environments, thoughtfully observing the chaos, yet persevering.
About the exhibition, Listfield Offers:
“I began working on this series of paintings while the world was in lockdown. Most of the planet was stuck at home riding out a pandemic unlike anything we’ve experienced in 100 years. City streets were empty, buildings boarded up, coyotes and tumbleweeds inhabited downtown. I began to hear from people that the real world was looking more and more like one of my paintings.
“Needless to say, this gave me pause. It’s always good as an artist to feel like you’re in the zeitgeist. It’s another thing entirely to get the uneasy feeling that you’ve predicted a fairly bleak present. I was struggling with what to do with this knowledge.
“My work is very much about exploration. All I’ve had to explore recently is the darker depths of my own mind. And so in these new paintings, the astronaut that roams my work wanders through deserted cities literally tipping and falling. Where gravity has its own free will. Bits and pieces of a recognizable pop culture landscape fall through these scenes sideways, toppling along with statues.
“Things break. Things burn. But the astronaut, like us, keeps going.”
Find out more about Scott Listfield, and see more of his Lonely Astronaut paintings, at This Link.