Interdisciplinary American artist Jonathan Monaghan (b.1986) creates 3D animated stories using video-game aesthetics. He works with high-end technology used by Hollywood, advertising and video games to examine popular culture and Western history. The artist grew up playing (and developing) video games online, which has left a legacy evident when looking at his work: cryptically repurposed characters of such computer games as "Street Fighter", "G.I. Joe" and "Super Mario Bros" explore worlds that are a delicate fusion between high culture, reality, and the gaming world. Locations in his short films range from Princess Peaches’ castle to New York's old-money Metropolitan Club; soundtracks of video game fanfares are interjected with passages from operas; and rainbow streets contrast with fantastic gothic structures and ornamental exaggerations of religious European architecture.
Monaghan originally studied computer graphics and was planning on a career in the digital film or advertising industries. "I think the path for myself (regarding technology and art) is different compared to that of older generations of artists who studied art initially, and then found technology as a medium. I think young artists who became proficient with digital technology before any kind of art education take a distinct approach." Monaghan received his MFA from the University of Maryland in 2011: "After being exposed to the world of contemporary art, like watching the films of Matthew Barney, it all made sense and I felt as if I could do that but use my skills with 3D animation to do it."
Both Monaghan's and Barney's work is epic yet private, a dreamlike sequence of borrowed images aligned to critique cliches of power, luxury and manhood. In Monaghan's films, we recognise similarities like re-interpretations of monarchical structures, the association of power with decay and self-consumption, new media banality and a reversal of the meaning and function of objects and characters that feature in his short films. Monaghan: " Marshall McLuhan talks about modern society as a kind of Narcissus as Narcosis, entranced by its own reflection but oblivious to the fact that they are looking at themselves. I think (we can not recognise ourselves) because we are mesmerised by (our reflection); we are in a kind of medicated state (by mass media and consumerism.) As artists we use these aesthetic effects and mediums of mass culture as an end to itself, and that is how we can examine the ornamented surface and gain some critical insight into our seemingly seamless condition."
Monaghan’s work has been exhibited in the BFI Southbank, the Moving Image Art Fair London, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Anthology Film Archives. He is the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant and was a U.S. Speaker and Specialist selected by the U.S. Department of State to speak on 3D printing abroad. He has given lectures and workshops at the University of Denver, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Bennington College. His work has been featured by the Washington Post, Metropolis M, TimeOut NY, the Colbert Report, ArtInfo and NYC TV.
Jonathan Monaghan lives and works in Washington, DC.