We’re just barely into the second week of 2021, and one thing has already become abundantly clear: our attitude, even more than our set of conditions and actions, is the most essential ingredient to a brighter 2021. Beyond the chaos of global events, we have control over our daily routine—we can choose to focus on the beauty and find the joy, and there is certainly plenty of it to go around.
History has given us proof; the brightest creatives rise out of the darkest seasons. From the black plague came the great Italian Renaissance; World War I produced Cubism, World War II gave way to Abstract Expressionism, and, in taking its place among the most challenging years of the century, 2020 will surely yield its own strain of inspiring art and innovative design. The digital landscape of the twenty first century has awakened a sense of agency in even the most dormant creatives, and, despite the dystopian conditions of 2020, they have risen to the occasion in spades.
Divided, isolated, but more expressive than ever before, we are looking to artists. We’ve compiled a list of artists who have already sparked flames from the ashes in an effort to find beauty in our reality and inspire the Monarch community to do the same.
From the never-ending beige narrative defining 2020, Folkore emerged with stories of escapism, fantastical beats, and a sense of joy that had been forgotten. In the words of Craig Jenkins from Vulture, “Loneliness was the great equalizer in 2020, and Folklore spoke profoundly to that.” Taylor Swift seemed to speak directly to her audience with plots that belonged to all of us; a childhood memory, a thirst for belonging, a sense of helplessness and longing in the passage of time. She proved that, in the vast isolation we all feel, perhaps we have more in common than ever before.
We are revisiting Lawrence and his prolific depiction of American identity with honesty; this is not, as we would like to believe, a portrayal of a dark, distant period in American history. Rather, Lawrence’s paintings of the American experience, following Brown Vs. Board of Education in 1954, are timeless renditions of racism and inequality that are just as authentic and dangerous as they were seventy years ago. How fitting, then, that 2020 was the first time that Lawrence’s pieces were all shown in together in a museum. Through the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the entirety of the Black Lives Matter, Lawrence’s 12 panels prove that antiracist efforts are crucial (if not life-preserving) to uphold in the new year.
David Hockney came to inspire us just in time with his dependable scenes of optimistic colors and sweet spring aesthetic. One year later, his message of resilience is still essential—through the haze of 2020, the seasons will keep changing and time will heal all wounds.
Judd's spacial pieces are, as MoMa curator Ann Temkin described, “the original self-distancers.” Even looking through a computer screen, the minimalist beauty of Judd's exhibitions manifest a sense of vacancy and isolation. But through bright pops of color and imaginative design, there is a certain surprise and delight to the emptiness. While half a century too early, Judd depicts an optimistic take on our socially-distant reality–perhaps in our lonely routine, we, too, can learn how to find and create bright spots of color.