The Orange Man orating like Mussolini or the one with the Charlie Chaplin mustache in the cracked balconies of histories. Despots in other parts of the world throttling freedom of expression and heralding the Age of Un-Reason—with computers becoming smarter and less secure, thousands of shows blooming on “Interflix” but almost nothing’s on (to steal a line from Springsteen), and smart phones on steroids turning into storehouses of selfies and TikTok dance routines. You can’t just shovel white sand over the situational shit and watch the sun set over our world on fire, punch away at a mascot virus, or swim with dolphins like a fat rubber dildo with a wig.
For Igan D’Bayan, these twilit themes have been mainstays in his art, but the Year of Our Lord 2020 has dragged even more deplorables out from the shadows and into the fore: neo-Nazis, cabals of conspirators and fundamentalists, disease super-spreaders, climate-change deniers, crazy cults, monkey men as overlords in business and politics, bat soups, pangolin pancakes, fake news, alternative facts, mystery diseases, murder hornets, life in the midst of a pandemic, the end of days, starts of breakdowns. The horror this, the horror that, and even more horror. The world has a headache the size of, well, the world. The artist explains, “I am really baffled with other artists painting butterflies and barrio lasses as well as cute abstracts for curated corners and crannies. What planet or houses with fancy cars and manicured lawns are they living in? If you looked at my Safari browser, you would see the Apocalypse—soundtracked by Jimmy Bondoc or the Village People.”
For the “Terra Pandemia” exhibition, D’Bayan has created a suite of paintings characterized by chaos, confusion, contagion, cultish behavior and other cursed things—a veritable dybbuk or Pandora’s Box of reverse goodies. In “Electric Don Quixote,” he imagines a wasteland with a figure recalling Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name surveying the destruction and the desolation, carrying a flag that is an emblem of nothing. “Book of Blood” suggests how holy books have become eroded and corrupted by the filthy hands that touch and brandish them, with rats acting as counsels. “Still Life 2020” is a return to a few of the artist’s favorite aesthetic: gothic, brooding, shadowy, with a touch of the macabre. “Ecce Homo” is a smoothie of portraits by renaissance artists, Ancient Aliens and Planet of the Apes. The ‘Terra Pandemia” diptych is Dante’s Inferno doused with bleach and hydroxychloroquine. “It took me an entire year to finish these paintings,” says D’Bayan. “I started in November 2019. My colors were — for a lack of a better phrase — more optimistic then. But whatever life we had before the pandemic, it was snuffed out right in front of our eyes. My outlook changed with the marauding months of news cycles headlined by tyrants with their bagful of terrors. Death and defeat are at our doorstep and I had to recalibrate my approach to the new paintings.” Thus, the show is a manifesto of mayhem and cadaver colors.