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The Little Prince's Quote

Museum Link:

Source Link:'s-quote-1417

Date Minted: January 8, 2019

Artist Description: [...] "The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same." [...]

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

In an oeuvre populated by zombies, skeletons, twitchy disfigurements, demented figures, the sick and the damned and the disgusting and the demonic, The Little Prince’s Quote stands out as starkly and sweetly as it does in MOCA’s Genesis Collection. Because, in contrast to the rest, this piece is hopeful and bright and peaceful. It combines colors, imagery, and pre-existing literary knowledge to lullaby effect. The Little Prince’s Quote is the kind of  wholesome image that one might seek to carry with them —on a wall, on a phone background, in the form of a tattoo, anywhere imminently visible or otherwise ubiquitous— to help dispel life’s little darknesses.

The Little Prince’s Quote, like much of Criptocromo’s work, indulges in a 16-bit video game style of visuals. These graphics, choppy and simplistic, are pulled in both tone and hue from the video game systems of the mid-1990’s, the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, systems whose visuals, despite their technological juvenility, have been emulated again and again, proving timeless. That is timeless, not merely nostalgic. The 8-bit style which preceded this era has proven too blocky and old-fashioned to achieve the same effect. And everything directly thereafter —3-D renderings like the N64 and early Xbox/Playstation— looks blocky and unrealistic in comparison the march of technology thereafter; after 16-bit games, the industry took a hard visual turn towards realism, instead of charm, as its central visual attribute. 3-D styles change so quickly, with technology improving so rapidly, that every new iteration makes the last one obsolete. Only 16-bit has managed to retain (if not grow) its cultural importance. And in The Little Prince’s Quote, emulating that 16-bit nature, the colors really pop —the ruby red of the Rose  and the deep violet of the sky above it, the emerald leaves, the underlying St. Elmo’s Fire glow which adds an iridescent depth to each color. Here the simple movement of raindrops falling, or how the Rose sways gently in the wind, it’s all quite pleasing, even to our 2022 sensibilities, and despite so obviously being such a relic of a bygone era.

I harp for so long on the history of video game graphics and their subsequent meaning, only because this kind of timelessness is central to the thematic underpinning I detect here. Look now to the title. The Little Prince’s Quote references a (get this) quote from Antoine St. Exupery’s 1943 novel, The Little Prince, nominally a children’s book, but one which has attained a long-life of widespread appreciation through its universal rendering of deeply philosophical ideas, its poetic language, its unique and engaging art style, and its meditations on friendship. The Little Prince’s Quote, the artwork, focuses on two aspects of the story, one visual and one linguistic. The former is the Rose in the center of the piece, which is an important character in relation to the actual Little Prince, acting as the plot’s impetus and most important mechanism/metaphor. The latter aspect I refer to is the quote underneath the Rose, rendered here in accurate 16-bit dialogue style, complete with textbox and blinking cursor. The full quote, which the fragment within the piece pulls from, is “Flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. And for millions of years sheep have been eating them just the same. Is it not important to try and understand why flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns if they are of no use?” 

Those words come from a rather lamentative chapter (the Prince has crash-landed on an alien planet, hoping to find there a way to save his friend, the Rose, from imminent death), and the piece’s visual language reflects that lamentation. The physical flower stands alone, for instance, as indigo-dipped raindrops fall atop it. The sky in the background is nebular, violet, surreal. Not unbeautiful, but threatening, as all dark skies are. The Little Prince, in his story, loves the flower deeply. By acknowledging that love, remembering it, and always keeping his love for the flower in mind, the Prince finds intergalactic warmth and worth. In Quote, Criptocromo adds a perceptible glow to the flower’s singular red hue, as if it is radiating the love which someone far away feels for it. 

The Flower dominates the piece, rising into the center, spread out among all four quadrants. Its leaves are multi-toned and many, but none glow as the flower does. Nothing glows like the flower does. Even the bright, auroral background fades into irrelevance when compared to the Rose. Notice the thorns on its stem. Notice the blood on those thorns. Even the Rose’s dangerous aspect —upon which sits the remnants of an impaling—  is part of its allure, is an indelible part of the beautiful whole.

There’s no need to go into a complex literary analysis of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince’s  in order to understand this piece. One need only feel the natural attraction to this bright, red, beautiful thing standing firm in a dreary environment. In St. Exupery’s novel, the Rose is the force of love persisting in any ecosystem. Finding that love, paying attention to it, remembering it when it’s gone, pursuing and safeguarding it, this all is the secret to finding meaning in the chaotic universe. The Little Prince thematically revolves around this assertion: Love pervades the universe, and that love is the antidote to pain. 

Now, keeping that idea in mind, doesn’t this piece seem all the more fitting as a unique node in the larger system of Criptocromo’s oeuvre?  So much of Criptocromo’s work is deeply dark, deeply troubling, designed to discomfit, and there, among it all, is The Little Prince’s Quote, so clear in its intention towards hope, its connotations of love and meaning and the rosiest radiations of existence. It is, almost literally, the glowing flower in an oeuvre of blood-splattered thorns. And it’s worth paying attention to above all things, hidden as it may sometimes seem, simple as it may appear to the careless.

From later in the chapter: “If someone loves a flower, of which there is only one example among all the millions and millions of stars, that is enough to make him happy when he looks up at the night sky.

“He says to himself, ‘Somewhere out there  is my flower.’”

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