Monday, July 23, 2007

The Wrath of Everyman

David Rathman's
current work is on view at Mary Goldman Gallery (LA) until Oct 13 2007. His new work features rock bands and the adolescent dream. In the years preceding, his work has featured football players, stock cars and boxers, and before that were the cowboys for which he became best known. Each world is depicted simply, with the sparse, unimpressed recording of a document. While the worlds appear very different at first consideration, they share an integral commonality: at once the archetype of the American fantasy of life at its best and most free, and at the same time, a barren collection of empty gestures.

Rathman's original cowboy work (2004) was the beginning of the exploration of the unconscious American archetype of freedom and virility. The emptiness to which our 'everyman' --whether a cowboy, teenage rocker, boxer or football player-- is condemned is clearly palpable. The clear graphic narrative, and cryptic, dark text work together, painting overlapping images of sad futility and confused, wasted efforts. That the cowboys stands as much for our national identity (in the US) as it does the individual heroic ideal of decades past is not coincidence. In subsequent generations, our national heroes did become sportsman, and rock stars. The very meaning of the American everyman lies both in its possibility and impossibility: that you could grow up to be this, but that you never will. The graphic novel quality of Rathman's work speaks to the children of past decades, whose belief in the good world that would come to pass has dried up in the silent, desert expanse of dreams deferred.