Responding to the numerous crises of his generation, Zachary Seth Greer invokes the increasingly dystopian hue of our future through war ravaged dreamscapes of color. Placing adolescent figures within dripping post-apocalyptic (sub)urban landscapes, he highlights the dichotomies of our era: chaos vs. control, freedom vs. surveillance, bravery vs. complicity, innocence vs. violence, and empire vs.collapse. His work questions the implicit assumptions of our culture about the nature of safety, government, liberty and sustainability in the internet age. The Millennials, raised on a steady diet of future shock, feel the weight of tomorrow pressing in on them as few generations ever have. As the systems of yesterday begin to crumble amidst accelerating change, the adaptations of tomorrow show their face through the cracking edifice of our current social structure. These paintings are forecasts, glimpses through those cracks, as the unsettling world that could be becomes the banal world that is already here.
Zachary Seth Greer was raised in a conservative Christian home in Texas, where the apocalyptic imagery of the book of Revelations captured his imagination as he witnessed open countryside transform into abandoned suburbs during the boom and bust of the housing market. After being homeschooled through elementary school and discovering the concept of evolution in junior high, Zach attended the University of Texas in Arlington to study architecture. But he ended up spending his hours in the art studios instead, developing himself artistically while opening up his mind to a more intricate world beyond that of Christian idealism. When financial difficulties prevented him from finishing his degree he packed up and moved out to California. Since then Zach has taught art to children with developmental disabilities, built a venue and community center in his West Oakland home, Trees, and created a series of paintings on display now at Blackball Universe. Last week I hung out with Zach while he painted the walls for his installation and talked to him about innocence, the apocalypse, and Oakland post-Occupy movement.