We’ve all had some sort of existential meltdown. And even if we don’t want to admit it, we sure know more than a few people who have questioned their place in society, as well as the persona they present to the world.
Most who undergo this sort of crisis find themselves accepting and conforming to their position. Yet those who fail to do so are doomed to spend the rest of their lives regretting that they were not able to find a reason for their existence. They will also find themselves in sort of limbo situation where everyone else buys the fantasy while they know it’s all a lie.
Plenty works from the silver screen and television have centered on this idea. Yet Bojack Horseman took it to the limit by capturing the true human decadence happening in our minds.
The show uses several elements, one of them being art, to explore emotions we don’t always feel comfortable talking about. Acclaimed cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt is the head designer for the show and likely responsible for the wave of provocative references found throughout the episodes that encompass the tragic symbolism.
Here are just a few of the references the team behind the show have used:
Portrait of an Artist (1972) – David Hockney
Pop Art is one of the main elements that appear on the series. This Hockney painting where he reuses Magritte elements to present a man who appears to be watching himself drown seems to be an interesting take on how Bojack sees himself.
Dance (II) (1932) – Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was one of the pioneers who revolutionized art at the start of the twentieth century. The show adapts the painting of Dance so the subjects appear with horse heads, representing a sort of liberation and freedom that is the essence of the main character’s life. Because Bojack is a Hollywood type, he has access to these works, making it obvious why these references keep popping up.
Six Crimee (1982) – Jean-Michel Basquiat
In the office of one of the producers Bojack worked with, in the sitcom that catapulted him to fame, we see a version of the triptych done by Basquiat, the young genius who died from heroin overdose. The piece represents humanity’s extreme duality, our selfish divine aspect paired with the raw tragedy of our existence.
Andre the Giant Has a Posse (c.1989) – Frank Shepard Fairey
Andre the Giant Has a Posse was a street art campaign from the skater community in Rhode Island. According to Shepard Fairey, the project was an experiment to see how far it would go. The images would be found all over the United States and eventually lead to the design we briefly see on Bojack.
Diamond Dust Shoes (1980) – Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol might be the biggest influence on the show, given his use of graphics to capture the essence of modern society. Bojack’s bedroom features a triptych based on Dust Diamond Shoes, with these being adapted into horseshoes. It slowly becomes a game of finding these pop culture references throughout the episodes.
Olympia (1863) – Édouard Manet
Crack is Whack (1986) – Keith Haring
Figure at the Seaside (1931) – Pablo Picasso
This famous painting shows up in the most acclaimed episode of the third season. The Bojack version includes marine figures to place the character in a bizarre place where communicating proves harder than he expected.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) – Damien Hirst
Ophelia – John Millais
This piece, featuring the character from Hamlet before her demise, is found in the bedroom of Bojack’s co-star Sarah Lynn. This is one of the few unexpected homages to classical paintings that appear on the show.
By mixing art with dark humor Bojack Horseman is able to present an incredible work that takes elements of visual art, literature, and film to encompass the reality of our life. We might be isolated, but there are plenty of creations to keep us entertained.
Translated by María Suárez