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Connect The Soul

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  September 27, 2020

Artist Description: Collect the digital version of this piece. Mixed media piece. Purchase the original here:

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

My first thought is Basquiat, but no, that can’t be, because this piece is too polished, and its use of collage is too self-aware; this is something new, something briccollage that is unmistakably of an internet age, that is aware of internet lingo and technical iconography. This is a new kind of collage, an entirely unique and startlingly affective artwork from an artist I did not realize was a technical master, Emotionull. I know the artist primarily from his whimsical 3D sculptures, his widespread usage of a purple rat character, Phette, and his Phettaverse series of cartoonish 3D creations. To find tucked away in his oeuvre all this incredible graffiti-inspired collage is quite a surprise, but just as Picasso made himself a master of classic painting before finding an interest in subversion, Emotionull has clearly studied his share of the 90’s masters, the Pop Artists, the street artists, and the neo-expressionists. In Connect the Soul, the artist leans more towards abstraction than elsewhere in his oeuvre, letting go of a fascination with character in favor of exploring color, line, and symbology. As far as I can tell from my research, Connect the Soul is a unique contribution to the artistic canon within Emotionull’s oeuvre. It is a dense and hectic masterpiece. It makes good on the words printed there on its face: “Experimental: imagining languages of the future.”

The visuals present in Connect the Soul are too dense to accurately convey. The full effect of the piece can only be understood from seeing everything mashed against each other. Nevertheless, let me attempt to explain. In Connect the Soul, a color scheme of black and grey and yellow and red —quintessentially urban colors; is this not what you’d see on your average jaunt through midtown New York City?— is expressed in hectic, jutting lines, turning jaggedly at spontaneous intervals, interspersed with small circles as if these are imaginary subway maps, and each node is a stop along the way. I’m also struck by the resemblance to the inside of a circuit, the green and black circuit boards one finds within computers and baking in the sun at flea markets, for the technologically-adept to peruse and purchase and place in a homemade CPU.  Dotted haphazardly within and around these lines are a smattered assortment of seemingly-unrelated iconography: A stick figure in mid-sprint, an open eyeball, the infinity sign, an eight-point directional compass, a spiky silhouette with its head cast down, tucked into the bottom-left corner of the image. Dominating the composition, however, is a headless human body, lines with black and white marks denoting its muscular curvature, an enormous red mark on its torso —like a white and red and black sun— and its left arm raised upwards, fingernails stained yellow, clutching at…something. Or perhaps just clutching, attempting to clutch, attempting to covet. Where the person’s head should be is instead a dense black oval, one imprinted with the word “SOUL” and a smiley face. We find words scattered sporadically throughout the piece, all in the style of a ransom note ripped from magazine pages. “Experimental: imagining languages of the future. Life is what you make it: Full Moon,” it says in one spot. “Connect the Soul,” in another, culminating in the last word atop the decapitated body. 

If trying to capture all the frenetic energy of a city like New York, Emotionull has doubtless succeeded. Connect the Soul sizzles with urbanity. From the red-blooded person without a skull, their arm raised up as if gesturing rudely at someone (or hailing a cab), to the overwhelming visual information, to the emotional outbursts hidden throughout the composition, it all speaks to different aspects of the urban experience, the sensuality, the loneliness, the sheer glut of life that goes on in these dense human hives. It’s hard for me to extricate urban ideology from graffiti art, if only because it is in concrete spaces where graffiti originated and where, to this day, it receives its fullest physical expression. I can’t get the image of Basquiat out of my head, he holed up in his Soho penthouse, the floors as much a mess as his mind, paint on every surface, and black blinds pulled down tight over the windows to keep the sun from getting in. Connect the Soul seems to have been borne of a similar sensibility. It’s as if all this energy was trapped within itself, within dour and slate surroundings, and then finally burst, waves of pure energy bouncing off every surface, hither and thither, picking up associations and expressions along the way.

Minted on September 27 of 2020, in the height of the Covid pandemic and just as a second mass wave of infections was sweeping the globe, it’s hard not to feel the effects of lockdown emanating from within Connect the Soul. This piece strikes me as a desire, a cry out for connection. But none of the people depicted are touching, are able to connect. One is in a corner crying, its skin prickly. Another has no head, no ability to communicate, just the emotion on its skin and the outstretched arm reaching out towards nothing. And the person running, though not in any specific direction, and not towards anything, just running, just expending themselves. All that cluttered information elsewhere: the world going on just as it always does, no less intricate and no less energetic. But just as we’re kept from touching this piece by the screen in the way, all these humans are separated from each other by their artist-induced stasis, by the unbridgeable space between them, and by all the threatening zigzags creating walls in the way. 

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