Renowned, provocative artist Robert Cenedella, who’s the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary “Art Bastard,” unveiled his latest work, “Fín del Mundo” (End of the World) on Wednesday, November 2nd at Central Park Fine Arts Gallery in Manhattan to dozens of fans and art aficionados.
Loosely inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s infamous The Garden of Earthly Delights, Fín del Mundo presents us with a garden of unearthly delights: a triptych depicting the end of the world as a cornucopia of disasters both natural and man-made. Much like the illustrious Bosch’s work, this 6 x 10 foot mural presents us with detailed vignettes embedded within a titanic, cataclysmic prediction of the inevitable demise of humankind.
But unlike Bosch’s masterpiece, Cenedella’s wasteland is replete with industrial evils, nuclear waste, and the ghosts of capitalism past, present and future; our modern hell, in other words, is plastered with Coke ads and Victoria’s Secret logos. Like the two thieves crucified along with Jesus Christ (who makes his own presence known, albeit with the cynicism of a perfect heretic), the gravest sinners of our contemporary age are pinioned: Big Oil companies, Big Banks, and Big Politicians. In their shadows, one finds a great deal of relevant commentary on the martyrs and victims of globalized greed, personified in the list of names of unarmed black men painted, memorial-style, on the cracked Liberty Bell, as well as the specters of the truly disenfranchised Native-American tribes (the Dakota pipeline protesters in particular).
Rather than offer us a mythological, mystical, universal path to hell, rife with demons and gods, Cenedella’s painting is intent upon pointing fingers at specific demons of flesh and blood (if a corporation qualifies as one), hitting right at the nose of our contemporary political, environmental and social tragedies. Ours is a human dilemma, he appears to urge, and our punishment will be meted out by our own hands and not that of any celestial or hellish being.
An anonymous collector, who had been friends with the painter for the past 30 years, sent a deposit to Cenedella and explained that he was upset with the ways of the world, and he wanted a painting that expressed all of society’s ills, with the general theme being The End of the World. It was agreed that Cenedella would retain artistic freedom over the content, but the idea was for the painting to be on display in time for the Presidential Election.
The collector released the End of the World painting, given its size and current importance, and purchased another controversial painting, Impeachment Off the Table, which chronicles the George Bush 9/11 era and Nancy Pelosi’s famous declaration the day after Obama was elected president.
If and when this painting sells, Cenedella has insisted on being able to continue to change things in the painting depending on the latest news – for example, we may sadly expect that the list of names of unarmed black people killed by police on the Liberty Bell will continue to grow.
List of names painted on the Liberty Bell:
Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Frank Shepherd, Tyre King, Levonia Riggins, Oscar Grant, Donta Taylor, Akai Gurley, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice. and Trayvon Martin.
Also up for scrutiny are the following familiar faces of past Republican nominees and hopefuls:
Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Vladimir Putin (not a Republican nominee but as a close friend of Trump, has an honorary spot in the painting) and George W. Bush.
Also featured is Luis Posada Carriles, the terrorist who bombed a Cuban jet in 1976 and whom the federal government has failed to extradite for charges.
The faces of Presidents and historical figures past and present (Obama, LBJ, Reagan, Ulysses S. Grant) form a line below a walled-off, post-apocalyptic Native American reservation with the names of the Lakota, Sioux, Hopi, Zuni and Navajo tribes painted, graffiti-like, on a concrete wall. Scattered throughout the mural are the signs and symbols of the following corporations: Nestle, Coca Cola, Wendy’s, KFC, Burger King, Gulf Oil, Exxon, Chase, Shell, and Victoria’s Secret.
This particular triptych’s main centerpiece is flanked by two panels that come as quite a surprise, contrasting in both color and content with the morose yet explosive doomsday prophecy outlined above. The artist, clearly, is able to laugh not only at our incipient extinction, but also at himself and his own creation.
ABOUT ROBERT CENEDELLA: Robert Cenedella was born in Milford, Massachusetts, in 1940. He received his formal education from the High School of Music and Art in New York and The Art Students League of New York. In 1988, he inherited the George Grosz Chair at The League when he was invited to teach his Life Drawing Class and a Painting Workshop. He presently teaches three classes at The League. Following a definite tradition in art, like Brueghel, Daumier, Hogarth and Grosz before him, Robert Cenedella has devoted his art to chronicling the changing rituals and myths of society in contemporary America. In the last 20 years, Cenedella has amassed considerable international praise as well as inclusion in numerous public and private collections. His commissions include works for the famed Bacardi Int’l and ABSOLUT Vodka, a theater piece for Tony Randall, and two murals of historical significance for Le Cirque 2000 Restaurant in New York and Mexico City.
“Art Bastard,” a historical documentary film on his work was released in the spring of 2016 by Concannon Productions, Inc to critical acclaim. It was directed by the writer & director Victor Kanefsky, produced by Chris T. Concannon, and edited by Jim MacDonald.