A Commentary on COVID-19 with Alejandro Cardenas in East Hampton

Eight paintings in the series AEAEA delve into themes of loneliness and intimate companionship, topics that have been dominant in the age of novel coronavirus. The dream-like compositions of LA based artist Alejandro Cardenas, are being showcased in Harper’s Books in East Hampton, New York, through September 17, 2020. 

Descendent Senses (2020), Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 60 in, Courtesy of the Artist and Harper’s Books

These surreal compositions take on inspiration of various lyrical, historic and surrealist sources. Elongated anthropomorphic figures present themselves alone, in couples or trios over sterile naturalistic backgrounds, convey “themes of isolation and the ascendance of nature through the lens of Madeline Miller’s 2018 novel Circe”. The novel tells a first-person narrative of the banished goddess Circe, daughter of Helios, god of the sun. 

Installation View, (L-R): Scirocco Sirens (2020), The Expected Arrival (2020), Courtesy of the artist and Harper’s Books

Circe’s power to create men into monsters that have the power to menace the gods themselves result in her banishment to the island Aeaea. The island’s cliffs and oceanic topography are central to the background composition of Cardenas’ paintings, reminisce the terrain of Greek islands, and invite a “comparison to the contemporary experience of quarantine”.

A Current Affair (2020), Acrylic on Canvas, 32 x 40 in, Courtesy of the artist and Harper’s Books

Oceanic horizon lines contrast with barren rocky surfaces which evoke a sense of desolation and impotence. This contrast highlights the “relationship between humans and the natural world—between what can and cannot be controlled—”, an increasingly relative subject matter in the 2020 global pandemic. 

Detail of The Expected Arrival (2020), Courtesy of the artist and Harper’s Books

Visible in The Messengers (2020) eternal cliffside entanglement, viewers are compelled to examine the human tendency to tunnel vision in our mundane day-to-day, while The Mistral Sentry (2020) and Levant Sentry (2020) grapple with the age-old human anxiety of living an ephemeral, negligible existence against the ocean’s monstrous presence. 

Installation View, (L-R): Mistral Sentry (2020), The Messengers (2020), Levant Sentry (2020), Courtesy of the artist and Harper’s Books

The series presents a space to introspect the things we value in our human lives, and how nature is constantly reminding us of how little control we have over our lives and the lives of others. Be sure to visit Harper’s Books, no booking necessary, and to check out their online viewing room to learn more about Cardenas in an all-too-relative subject matter in a time where we can’t yet see an end to our own isolation.