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Death is King

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: December 31, 2020

Artist Description: You had the kiss of death upon you.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Look at this brilliant piece of trippy, glitchy chaos. Presented with only the slightest bit of comment (“You had the kiss of death upon you.”), Death is King is given the freedom and totality to grip us fully, a piece wild in its execution, bombastic in its effect. It’s psychedelia! It’s pop! It’s animé influenced, and it’s fully fun! But this is Neurocolor’s forte, creating works in this glitchy, electric-rainbow style. And death is a constant preoccupation. Skulls abound in Neurocolor’s work, usually placed beside others in lines or circles or dancing patterns. And always these omnipresent, flashing shades of neon color, as if we’re standing under Downtown Tokyo lights, as if we’re at some wild rave, as if our brains are turning to mush under the effect of this or that substance. Neurocolor’s collection is not as prolific in number as some other industry-dominant crypto artists, but the artist’s works are so cohesive, so thematically strong, and so visually intriguing, that it's hard to keep Neurocolor from the upper echelons of any artistic hierarchy. Death is King, which so carefully and powerfully expands the narrative within Neurocolor’s works, is a true exemplar within their oeuvre. 

There’s a truly hypnotic quality to Neurocolor’s pieces. Death is King actually physically pulls you in. We’re drawn, simple monkey minds we are, to flashing lights and pretty colors, and Death is King has plenty such patterns. The bright colors in the background waver and flash, but never doing so in a predictable pattern, as if a phantom hand is changing TV channels behind the foreground. Speaking of that foreground, a series of 8 skulls face the right edge of the screen, with the closest one to us the largest and most solidified; it is the only one fully exposed. The others are each blocked by that one which precedes it, and the line of skulls becomes fainter and fainter, less and less fully visible, until finally the chain disappears entirely at the left edge of the image. Coated the skin of the skulls are more traditionally trippy colors, brightly neon-lit, the kind you’d see through an infrared radar scan. All of these skulls wear a spinning crown. Death is king indeed. A line of Japanese text, three characters, descends down the center of the screen: 神 (kami) 経 (kai) 色 (iro), which seems (at least in my short research) to translate into “God Colors.” One can see how that would apply here. 

Ultimately, there are a series of warring themes being explored here, with the main motif being the interplay between death and colors. Death is certainly being deified here, not just literally coronated but centered. Similarly, in a lot of Neurocolor’s works, as previously mentioned, there is centralization of death or death imagery. The inescapability of death in the artist’s oeuvre mirrors the true ubiquity of death, and I’d argue there’s a line to be drawn between that which is inescapable –death– and that which is omnipresent –God. My translation of the Japanese characters may be rough or incorrect, so I don’t want to dive erroneously deep into considerations of death and divinity, but Neurocolor certainly seems to be linking these two concepts. The crown and the skull, the occupation of the full visual color spectrum. I’ll leave it to more enlightened minds to further explore this aspect. 

What further interests me is the long-form and highly-interesting exploration of certain television graphics. Very clearly, this piece pulls from the television medium for inspiration. In the top right of the screen, a color bar appears, the kind which might occupy your screen during one of those late-night “Tests of the emergency alert system,” or which would come on long-ago after that night’s programming had ended, when these markings would appear via the TV’s physical antennae, communicating a lack of applicable signal. Additionally, the crowns upon the skulls have a certain animé characteristic to them, a slight cartoonishness, which, when considered visually with the skulls and the Japanese text and what very well may be subtitles (if not literally than certainly in representation) along the bottom of the image, seems to link it into historical animé imagery, where mass death and galactic catastrophes are sometimes presented childishly (Dragonball Z), where colors pop and graphic styles (such as 3D and hand-drawn) merge. This would also lend credence to any reading of the blurred, colorful background as that of a changing TV channel. 

And it altogether makes us reconsider where we’re sitting in relation to the piece: likely viewing it from a seated position, probably on our computers, just as generations before us would tune-out in front of the television. Are we going to treat Death is King like so many random, off-brand television products that populate the so-called “airwaves” now: looking at it absentmindedly, if even looking at it at all, background noise while we galavant across the social universes contained in our phones? Death is King, after all, is doing all it can to keep our attention. It draws us in with colors and lights, appealing to our primordial selves. It keeps us consternated with its death-focus, its presentation of death as superiority, of death as omnipotent, and now we’re thinking about death, perhaps paralyzed by that, and all the while channels change in the background, colors erupt in waves throughout the piece, and we’re staring dazed at the slow sine-wave movement of the skulls, the death before us, which we cannot elude, which we must, —if not now then when?— finally confront. And Neurocolor asks us to confront it. Commands us to confront it. We have nowhere to turn; there is not actually a channel to change. There is only the image, and its all encompassing visual nature. We are hypnotized by it. Of course we are. These poor monkey minds, they love colors, they cherish light, but they hate death. And they’re paralyzed by the contradiction. Pleasant, mind you, as that paralysis may be. 

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