The Christ Chronocrator, Series III: The Reckoning is currently on display at Billy Shire’s La Luz de Jesus in Hollywood. So, while you are there buying unique tchotchkes to fill up hipster stockings, make sure that you make a little time to be gob-smacked by the twelve monumental panel paintings in the gallery space.
The Reckoning is the culmination of artist, Christopher Ulrich’s spiritual and artistic odyssey, which began six years ago with his mind-blowing Demoneater and subsequent, Illuminator exhibitions. Although the last phase in a grand experiment, this is stand alone work. There is more than enough to enlighten, inspire and unsettle the viewer.
Each painting is a window on (or doorway to?) vignettes depicting archetypal beings out of myth, religion, art history and personal iconography composed according to the zodiac and renaissance themes. Though don’t expect to see the sorts of Annunciations, Crucifixions and Last Judgements one would expect in the Vatican Museum. True, the technique of the old masters is here, buffed to a sexy gloss, but symbolism and subject matter has been chopped up, reconstituted and transfigured. Prepare to be dazzled by visions of the heroic, the monstrous, the sublime and the base. Myth and mystery collide in landscapes where Egyptian gods are locked in eternal conflict, St. George’s dragon is beguiled by its own reflection and a nativity scene is dwarfed by a bacchanal of the old gods. Yay! Just in time for Christmas.
The use of classical, gothic and renaissance tropes, often alluded to in Ulrich’s work, is celebrated here with sly nods to Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Botticelli and the other Ninja Turtles, reminding us that surrealism did not spring fully formed out of Dali’s head but has been the language of artists and their psyches since the Lascaux caves. The largest and perhaps most iconic painting is Ulrich’s interpretation of The Last Supper as a sort of allegorical Sgt. Pepper’s cover where half the fun is trying to sort out who’s who and what it all means. As in much of his work, myth, religion and esoteric knowledge merge. The result is a visual record of the artist’s spiritual and artistic journey and the truths revealed along the way.
Ulrich will tell you that the images were channeled through him, manifesting according to their own design, and I tend to believe him. The startling juxtapositions in form and meaning, happy or unhappy accidents in the work process and seamless blending of symbolism—sometimes layered so deep it makes my head spin, seems more the result of god intoxicated frenzy than calculated plan. This process reminds me of traditional Indian religious art whereby the artist is deemed worthy only if what he has created successfully conveys the essence of deity. Ultimately, the judge of his or her success is the devotee who receives the divine message. I have always thought Ulrich’s art to be evocative, if not downright confrontational. Once seen, it is hard to forget. A visceral response is elicited and you don’t need to be an art historian, occultist or philosopher to get ‘a’, if not ‘the’ message.
The magic of surrealism is that it reflects both the universal and the personal. This quality is a hallmark of Ulrich’s work. As the self-portraits scattered through his paintings attest, what we see is his own reflection. At the same time we are invited to accompany him on his esoteric journey and perhaps be inspired to travel down our own path of discovery. And why not? In the words of an enlightened master, “Oh! the places, you’ll go!”
The Christ Chronocrater Series III: The Reckoning will be on view until December 30th, 2012 at La Luz De Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90277. (323) 666-7667
Gallery hours: M-W, 11-7; Th-Sat, 11-9; Sun. 12-6.
Check out Christopher Ulrich’s website to see more of the Demoneater Saga.
Photos by Lee Joseph