Imagine a remote, tranquil beach at twilight, with calm ocean waves rolling onto white sand, where a perfect setup for lounging under the stars has been assembled—this is the site of Jonathan Monaghan’s alien invasion. In the moving-image artist’s new video installation, Alien Fanfare, a fantastical alien vessel descends to Earth, bringing with it futuristic constructs of art historical and cultural referents, all realized in 16 minutes of mesmerizing CGI. The video is the centerpiece of an exhibition of the same name this month, through Curator’s Office at Washington D.C.’s Studio 1469, which showcases the accomplished Monaghan—only in his late twenties and hailing from Queens, New York—and his captivating works.
Rather than the expected premise for an alien invasion, in which otherworldly figures arrive on Planet Earth via a beam of light, destroying or abducting humans that stand in their way, Monaghan casts the spacecraft as its protagonist, and embarks upon a peaceful, illuminating journey. The vehicle in question is a lozenge-shaped floating island of sorts, rendered in wood grain with gilded accents, a mouthlike opening, and three jellyfish-like tendrils; perched atop it is a cylindrical Parisian-style apartment building with expansive, angelic wings. A conical beam of light descends below, and delivers a white, many-legged creature that appears to be made of glossy white tufted leather; this creature, like the video as a whole, melds together divergent worlds of science fiction and luxury goods.
Monaghan’s stunning display of hybrid entities of flesh, art, and design, showcases his own brand of surrealism, which recalls elements from Salvador Dalí paintings, like the sea from Figure at the Window (1925), and the tone and spirit of the imagined beings that abound in Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (1505-15). Visual quotations from popular culture, history, and art are among the work’s underpinnings, from Whole Foods shopping bags to parts of a Le Corbusier chair to an update on Albrecht Dürer’s Triumphal Arch woodcut. This canonical Dürer work inspired Monaghan’s suite of accompanying prints, “The Checkpoint” which includes beguiling iterations of the CGI structure, illuminated in neons and distilled to fine black-and-white contours. Also on view is Monaghan’s fantastic video Mothership, which took the stage at Curator’s Office’s Moving Image London presentation in 2013. From CGI to print-based works, one can’t help but get sucked into Monaghan’s alien invasion.
“Jonathan Monaghan | Alien Fanfare” is on view at Curator’s Office in Residency at Studio 1469, Washington D.C., Apr. 25th–May 31st, 2014.