Past Exhibitions

The End Is Near: Visions of Apocalypse, Millenium, and Utopia

The Marriage of Art, Science & Philosophy

Revelation Revealed (Detail), William Thomas Thompson

May 1997 - May 1998

Curated by Roger Manley


Big Bang Theory

Throughout human history, the "End of the World" has been thought to be about to happen more times than anyone can count. The explosion of the volcano on the ,island of Santorini in 1500 B.C., the destruction of Pompeii in 79 A.D., the Fall of Rome in 410, the Black Death (bubonic plagues) of the mid-fourteenth century, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 - are only a few examples of the thousands of times when the people who experienced such catastrophic events assumed "the End" to be near. At other times - such as the end of the first millennium in 1000 A.D., the Millerite movement of 184, and more recently the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, or the Heavens Gate sect in Rancho Santa Fe, California - groups of believers were swayed by charismatic leaders into thinking the end of the world was at hand. But it was only after the Second World War that doomsday was seen as a real possibility by nearly everyone in the world. When atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people everywhere realized that for, perhaps the first time, humankind actually did possess the power to destroy the world as it is. Threats of nuclear annihilation were soon followed by others like global warming, nuclear reactor waste, world overpopulation, urban decay, new viral diseases, and species extinction.

Visionary artists have reacted strongly to these impending crises in a variety of ways. For some, a state of madness and mental excitement (the "vatic" state referred to in Von Stropp's painting by that title) led to prophecies of doom and destruction, while others have used the possibility and depiction of disasters as a call for action - arguing that the responsibility for saving the work rests as much with ourselves as with any Higher Being.