To imagine epic battles between heaven and earth, Dan Hernandez plants Super Mario Bros. clues in ancient frescoes and uses Donkey Kong architecture to build medieval fortresses
You don’t remember that part in the Bible where saints and devils do battle using neon lasers and spaceships? Dan Hernandez’s gilded faux-frescoes at Kim Foster Gallery might help jog your memory. In them, genres from the recent and distant past collide with surprising ease—the mixed-media works recall Renaissance and Byzantine art and vintage video games in equal parts. The “Genesis” of the show’s title refers way back to the beginning of time and to the hit game box produced by SEGA in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Flattened space and exaggerated differences of scale were hallmarks of old school video games, but they are also at home in early religious paintings. Hernandez mixes the two worlds with fervor, making pictures that look like something dreamed up during a nap in Art History 101, circa 1993.
In Siege of Intelari Stronghold, tidy rows of sky-blue beings hover against a gold field, in a pattern reminiscent of the clouds of aliens in Space Invaders. The cutaway crenulated brick building below is supported by flying arches but its rooms are connected by a series of ladders, the preferred method of egress in Donkey Kong. Topping the structure is a figure with dark blue wings, whose muscle-bound physique is more Street Fighter than Fra Angelico.
Segacielo Civita depicts a floating castle, a popular trope in any number of games ranging from simply-rendered Joust to the more elaborate worlds of Minecraft or Final Fantasy. Its rooms are filled with tiny figures fighting with swords. When injured, they can make use of white boxes marked with red crosses positioned throughout the structure, an opportunity for those in need of medical attention to up their health points and continue the fight between good and evil.
Paint has cracked and chipped from Wall Fragment but the key figures are still intact: a towering horned creature and his lizard army who might have escaped from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, and their attackers—giant saints in flowing robes who shoot glowing beams, à la Mortal Kombat (or going back further, Star Wars). Above, two demure women stand in the heavens like twin Marys among a swarm of disembodied haloed heads, souls on their way down to earth or recently arrived back.
Long and narrow, Treasures of Castle Atega seems to reference the endless horizontal landscape of video games. Above the battle stands a figure in green nearly as tall as the fortress she’s defending. But the only link between her earth and the rows of gold-haloed figures in the clouds above is a beanstalk ladder, lifted straight out of Super Mario Bros.