Existentialism in Art
The Super Deep Theory
A sense of purpose
He finds that their narrative and aesthetic expressions function as a reinterpretation of the most classic and archaic myths. And if they are reinterpretations, how do they change the ideas? How do these sugar-coated mythologies answer our existential questions in new ways?
All the Art
Super Deep Thoughts!
Shaman, Philosopher, Guru
When we turn to pop songs and popcorn flicks for the spiritual balms once taken from the shaman, philosopher, or guru, how do we change? What is the human condition as described through the frames of the comic book’s page? And can we bring back the much older stories to speak through these new mouths?
The Super Deep Theory
Rafael Lanfranco’s work revolves around the creation of characters that serve as metaphors of the emblematic psychological, mythological and archetypal processes of our time as an attempt to explore the nature of consciousness and the purpose of existence, both at the collective level and at the individual level.
This, under the understanding that constant pursuit of answers to the questions such as “WHO AM I? WHAT SHOULD I BE? WHAT SHOULD I DO?” in our space and time endow a powerful sense of purpose that makes life tolerable. The artist’s search is flooded with references of culture, animation, fantasy, science fiction, from which he “drank” for a good part of his childhood and early youth, and that deeply influences him until today.
Tenets of Pop existentialism
The relationship between the images of pop culture and the gods of past civilizations is well-tread territory. The general consensus is that the former compares poorly to the latter. But this knee-jerk retrospective snobbery glides over the question with actual stakes: what are the new heroes teaching us about ourselves?
The artist’s gift
No amount of pretension can prevent the spell of pop culture from working its magic. Pepsi is everywhere. But such spell work is the artist’s gift as well. So the artist recreates these tellings, reinforcing the pop images with the ancient archetypes that they emerged from. A circle back to get answers.
Lanfranco’s recombination emphasizes the universal in both sets of images. This allows us to look at each set with new levity and profundity. And that dichotomy is the ultimate mission of pop existentialism: fluff with heft, shimmer with substance.
A definition of existentialism always leaves the reader empty. One can describe the philosophical tradition and lose the spiritual impulse to understand ourselves. Conversely, one can describe that spiritual impulse and lose philosophy. But what is existentialism if not philosophical analysis guided to these questions of a personal, spiritual nature? That intangibility mirrors pop messages. One can over analyze the narrative and obscure ideological elements and lose the collective, euphoric experience. And of course, one can do the reverse.
With existentialism, as with pop, the two sides are difficult to analyze in tandem. Neither half lends itself to the logic of the other. That is where art can thread the two. Lanfranco’s work stitches the worlds back into place, allowing an aesthetic experience to whisper in its own wordless way.
Lanfranco’s reference material is universal — the great inheritance of the human condition itself as well as the passing commercial visions purveyed in our culture at the time — and yet the topics are individual. The answers sought are individually lived, personally realized. Yet another dichotomy to bridge.
Pop Existentialism vs Nihilism
The resulting message is profoundly redemptive. Whereas most encounters with pop are nihilist messages — proclaiming the realm of pop as corrosive, hollow, and motivated — pop existentialism battles for answers in the same terrain. The realm of pop that pervades the world around us is then able to provide, to nurture. This redemption through Lanfranco’s art turns a bleak media landscape into a fecund one, teaching us how to read pop and teaching pop how to speak to us.