We live in an age of abundance. Even the poor among us are able to afford luxuries–a McDonald’s hamburger, say, or occasional access to world-class entertainment–that previous generations only dreamed of. And it’s been pointed out before that, as mind-blowing as the world is right now, in terms of all of the technologies and opportunities available to us, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to reduce the anxiety that people feel while moving through this fantastic world we inhabit. It’s the dilemma of the contemporary age: “Everything is amazing, and nobody’s happy.”
Visual art can express that sentiment differently than words can, and the work of artist Alex Gross explores the despair of our brightly-colored, brand-saturated, tech-obsessed age in a new exhibit opening this weekend at Los Angeles’s Corey Helford Gallery, “Antisocial Network.”
Gross’s work is colorful and representative. There are echoes of cigarette ads of the ’50s in the way he depicts virtual reality headsets; brand logos from 7/11 to KFC to Nike to Apple abound; and all of the people he depicts are beautiful, unhappy, and navigating a world that can’t possibly exist. They’re half-human and half-lizard, or sheep on Vespas, or sucking down a Slurpee with literal death inside of it. The theme may be familiar–all of this technology, luxury, and abundance isn’t making us happy–but it still resonates.