Life after the fall: John Felix Arnold's post-apocalyptic musical comic book art


Artist, illustrator, and graphic designer John Felix Arnold III lived his childhood in movement. His parents were both professional dancers and they kept the family mobile, relocating back and forth from Durham, North Caroline to Brooklyn, New York. While Arnold did not inherit a passion for dance, he was inspired by his mother and father's kinesthetic sensibilities and he grew into a visual artist.

The February 4 opening of “The Love of All Above,” his new solo show, featured musical performances by Daylight Curfew, Kool Kid Kreyola, and Him Downstairs -- a prime example of Arnold’s mixing of media and his obvious passion for the values inculcated by a deeply creative family. The musical performances took place on a funky altar composed of found objects built by Arnold, which will be on view as part of the exhibit.

The artist intends to create a feeling of "walking inside of a giant graphic novel about the end of the world,” with literal panels made from salvaged two-by-fours depicting scenes. He aims to “bring the audience together in one huge ceremonial experience inside of a realized environment.” The sculpture “Say It With Feeling” is displayed with a short set of instructions for how to carry out a ritual ablution in the style of Shinto mystical practices.

Arnold is heavily influenced by Japanese Edo-period print work, comic books, and manga, as well as modern abstract American art. His mural-like assemblages of wood paneled paintings, done in black, white, pastel pink, and blue, have an undeniable Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg inflection to them. Those artists are two of his biggest inspirations, he admitted during a recent interview with the Guardian at the opening of this show. The figures in his work are mainly Asian women, with tribal face paint and hefty looking weapons in their hands, fending for themselves in a Mad Max backdrop of chaotic destruction.

More so than even the content, the interactive element is critical to Arnold’s mission as an artist, because he aims to directly counteract the alienation and distance enforced on us by modern technology. "The ability to interact with one’s surroundings is being lost through the virtual world that we spend more and more of our lives in,” he says. “Our spirituality is dying.” Through his dark vision of what the future might look like, Arnold hopes to promote in his viewers a deeper sense of awareness and gratitude for what they currently have.

Queens Nails Projects presents "The Love of All Above"

Through Jan. 21 by appointment, free

Art Now SF

3075 17th St., SF

(917) 543-5261