This is not one of those times.
Before the new $10m Martin Luther King statue was unveiled in Boston, Claretta Bellamy of NBC News reported:
“Five years in the making, the monument represents the love, heart and spirit of the couple, [the sculptor] said, while also highlighting the power of an iconic moment. .. In that picture, you can see the weight of him on her shoulders as they embrace,” he said. “And I realized that this was really a metaphor for his legacy — that she carried his legacy on her shoulders for several decades after he was assassinated.”NBC News
Martin Luther King and Coretta King embrace
A fond remembrance was the plan. But when the 22-foot statue was unveiled in Boston, the question on most people’s lips was ‘where is his head?’
Those were the polite responses. People who felt no need to hold back, like Coretta King’s cousin Seneca Scott, said : “it looks more like a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple.”
Rasheed N. Walters, a columnist with the Boston Globe, said: “The famous photo should have been a FULL statue of the couple and their embrace. What a huge swing and miss in honoring the Dr & Mrs King.”
Social media labelled the statue “obscene” and “pornographic looking” and a reason to shut down modern art.
What inspired this formless, dehumanized representation of one of the world’s great leaders?
History shows that trying times can inspire great art. The sixteenth century’s cultural upheaval and plagues gave us Hieronymus Bosch.
From Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights‘
The horrors of the Inquisition and the Napoleonic invasion gave us Goya’s unflinching, surrealist works.
More about ‘The Third of May’
The artists’ rejection of the civilization that inflicted the First World War on a generation gave us Surrealism.
Salvador Dali’s ‘Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man’
1950’s and 60’s commercialism gave us the intentional irony of Warhol & Lichtenstein –
‘In the Car’ by Roy Lichtenstein
Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’
And there was also Madison Avenue’s dreamy, unintentional absurdity –
Trippy Shell Ad.
But all the ZeroCOVID era gave us was – Alegria.
Like the MLK statue, Alegria is all about giant sausage-ey arms and barely existent, expressionless heads. Like the First World War, it’s an example of civilizational decay that we’re all trying to turn away from.
Developed by the Brooklyn-based design firm, Buck, Alegria was created to cater to tech titans. Google, Airbnb and Facebook wanted a “consistent illustration system that signals positivity” — something that would be inclusive without being individualist while being simple, scaleable and most of all, cheap.
Something for a CEO championing “getting through these trying times together” while earning 200 times the salary of his average employee.
After a great deal of thought and Zoom calls, the tech industry heartily approved Alegria. Soon our online world was filled with interchangeable herds of colorful humanoids bounding about in their bland tech whitespace.
Bounding herds of humanoids
They are happy.
They are interchangeable.
They are safe.
Not surprisingly, Alegria has become the most hated art style on the planet. Some call it Globohomo (globohomoginized), but it’s not clear if even the Davos crowd likes it.
The Reddit crowd certainly doesn’t.
But in some way, the horrors of the ZeroCOVID era did bring creativity back, in its most absurd form — memes.
‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, done by Goya and Alegria
Vaccine ad parody
This meme was mistaken for the real thing.
Which one is real?
These absurdist memes are a rare sign of creative life, artists waging a valiant war against a future of de-humanized people and humanized mice.
Dali and Bosch would be proud.