Cosmic Jive


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By Romeo, Johnny size: 120 x 120 cm code: H31262 Medium: Acrylic and Oil on Canvas Genre: Painting

Pop Culture’s perennial Star Man, David Bowie, trades the intergalactic rock opera of space for the trappings of Russian aristocracy in Johnny Romeo’s irreverently regal portrait, Cosmic Jive. The painting amusingly transforms Bowie’s androgynous alien alter-ego Ziggy Stardust into Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, replete with military medals and courtly regalia. While initially jarring, the visual link Romeo creates between Bowie and Tsar Nicholas alludes to the Pop icon’s own history with Russia. Bowie infamously travelled to Russia on two occasions in the 1970s while it was under strict Communist rule (including a trip with US proto-punk rocker Iggy Pop), but vowed never to return after receiving a cold reception from Russian audiences on his final visit in 1996. Romeo extends on this point in the word assemblage ‘Star Man’, a sly reference to the 1972 Bowie song taken from ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust’, which subtly conceals the phrase ‘Tsar Man’. The majestic sense of the imperial that Romeo conjures in the painting is playfully encapsulated in the title Cosmic Jive, which nods to the lyrics of ‘Star Man’ and transforms Ziggy Stardust into a celestial Tsar instructing us to ‘let the children lose it… Let all the children boogie.’ With dance floors currently shut due to Corona restrictions, Bowie’s royal decrees to get down and boogie take on a new light and a greater sense of urgency.