Anyone surprise you? The most interesting are probably the masks of Lincoln and Whitman. I think George Washington’s mask absolutely matches his depictions in paintings and currency. Goethe’s would make the best gargoyle.
At the end of World War II, Italian artist Lorenzo Alessandri opened up his first studio, naming it “Attic Macabre,” a clear indication of his artistic direction. It wasn’t until 1964 though, that he coined the term “Surfanta” (a portmanteau of surrealism and fantasy) to describe the movement he spearheaded—a wide-ranging genre of other-worldly creatures, horror, sex, mystery, occultism, and a healthy dose of religious and historical farce. He titled a magazine Surfanta, and you can even catch the word in the signage of his paintings, like morbid little Hidden Mickeys. The sheer diversity of his work makes it impossible to do a comprehensive retrospective, but I’ll cover a few of the weirdest highlights—pictures below are relatively safe for work, embedded links are… less so.
Throughout his career, Alessandri had a fascination with grotesque sexuality. He utilized a variety of subjects for the theme, including sentient genitals, anthropomorphic animals and horrifyingly lewd monsters. Not all of his prurient material was disgusting though—there was also his campy “groovy chick” phase, which often featured regular pin-up style ladies in surreal settings. Sometimes the babes themselves were psychedelic—often a shade of electric blue, and sometimes they hung out with his occult characters or his sex-monsters (though they stop short of doing anything hardcore).
In my opinion, Alessandri’s most fascinating and sophisticated work is his series of contemporary fantasy scenarios, which deal most readily with the politics and history of the modern world. The KKK lord over a naked woman before an atom bomb and a gorilla. Mona Lisa does a striptease before an animalian bourgeoisie (he also did a version where she had a penis). There’s also a ton of occult imagery. Airplanes piloted by skeletons (he loves those) roll by estates, landmarks and villages. Shadowy figures—perhaps demonic creatures or paranormal monks—are busy, perhaps frantic. The worlds he created are complex and mysterious—an inscrutable delight.
On the Yowp blog, your first stop for Hanna-Barbera stuff, there was a post yesterday showcasing some early concept art that was used in making The Flintstones.
The items had been put up for auction at the Van Eaton Gallery in Sherman Oaks, California, and two of them are listed as having already been sold. No artist is listed. The person who runs Yowp wonders whether the items are “retro” or “actually drawn in 1959 or 1960 in preparation for The Flintstones.”
My two cents: Nobody who was familiar with The Flintstones in its mature state would have drawn anything looking like this. That’s my guess. But I don’t know.
The three images below, you can see a larger image by clicking on them.
“Fred Flintstone, Wilma Flintstone, Barney Rubble”: sold for $4000
Darkly comic performance artist Brother Theodore’s trademark manic, impassioned delivery made him an obvious choice for cartoon voice work. Although he was one of the more frequent guests on 80s David Letterman shows, I actually first heard him as a kid incessantly watching the 1982 animated feature, The Last Unicorn (he perfectly voiced an evil hunchback). He also made a great Gollum in the really underrated 1980 cartoon of The Hobbit—again, perfect casting. However, Theodore really shined at monologue, which is why this 1966 animated adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical short story “The Nose” is so strong; he does every voice—the narrator, our tragic protagonist (Nathan Naspicker), the cruel and unfeeling police, and even the rogue nose itself.
“A Nose” is obviously slightly reworked for a light cartoon audience. Rather than Gogol’s 1830’s St. Petersburg, director Mordi Gerstein chose to set the story “in the Year of our Lord 1305, on the 25th of March in the city of Pittsburgh.” Poor Nathan Naspicker finds that his nose has abandoned him and started a life of its own. As Naspicker attempts to track down his roving schnozz, he begins to despair. There is no moral, it’s just pure madness, but it has a happy ending (kind of?)! The format of the film is actually quite experimental as well—partially animated, partially live action. It’s a cute cartoon for kids, but it’s definitely pure Brother Theodore in all his mad glory.
In 2004, Canadian artist Adam Brandejs created a piece of art called the “Animatronic Flesh Shoe”. Brandejs even included bits of his roommates actual hair for realism. Yikes.
Brandejs used the logo for high-profile brand Nike on the piece that is actually made from latex that looks remarkably like human flesh. And that is because Brandjes made the rubber casts for the shoe out of molds made from his own skin. Brandejs then wired the shoe and connected it to electric motors that are run through a circuit to interpret signals sent out from an MP3 Player, enabling the shoe to move. Or more appropriately as you will see, “twitch” sporadically as if it was in the throes of death. Brandejs’ intention when he created “Animatronic Flesh Shoe” was to help enlighten consumers on the conditions in sweatshops that make our everyday products, as well as the labor practices employed by companies that make the things we all think we can’t live without. Here’s a part of Brandejs’ statement on his piece:
If the flesh disturbs you, then the reality behind the issue would disturb you far more if we opened our eyes long enough to see it. We live in a culture disconnected from what it is doing to itself and others, we choose to ignore rather than deal with the reality we have created for ourselves. This piece ultimately comments on this simple idea.
More photos and a video of the flesh shoe in motion follow. Your move, Buffalo Bill.
The flesh-like latex that was used to make “Animatronic Flesh Shoe”
Italian visual artist, Donato Sansone’s latest work is called Portrait. In the short video, Sansone takes still-images of real people’s faces, and distorts them in a slow-moving film that will become the fuel for your next nightmare.
Sansone’s video reminded me a bit of all the twisted images that are getting spit out of Google’s “Deep Dream” AI system, only slightly more demented. The audio work by Enrico Ascoli—which quite frankly sounds like bones being churned through a meat grinder, while someone is simultaneously getting electrocuted—only adds to the unease you will experience while watching this surreal two-and-a-half-minute video. Much like the images created with “Deep Dream,” Sansone’s video is as eerily beautiful as it is completely unsettling.
I’ve taken the liberty of culling some screenshots from Sansone’s slow-motion acid trip so you can take a moment to digest the disfigured faces that you’ll be seeing later in your dreams. The super creepy video will be waiting for you at the very end of the post. If you need me, I’ll be under the bed.
Twelve-step programs have long achieved remarkable things using the simple technique of a single voice speaking with honesty and humility, and it is precisely this device that works so smashingly well in this animated short crafted by the production company Buck for Alcoholics Anonymous.
In “Doors,” the simple aural method of a multitude of voices detailing (necessarily incompletely) the abjectness of their situations is singularly effective, singularly moving, singularly powerful. The iconic and yet entirely fluid visuals in the short reminds me a great deal of the work of Eric Drooker, whose wordless novel Flood of some years ago evinced similar feelings of helplessness, dread, isolation, and desperation.
“I’m Justin H., I’m an alcoholic.” “I had no friends, I burned every single bridge, my family had cut ties from me, I was unemployable. ... All of those things because, you know, drinking was more important than anything else.” The snippets start out bleak but, inevitably, turn more hopeful as the narrative edges towards probably the planet’s most effective counter to dipsomania—Alcoholics Anonymous.
Just as AA meeting structurally resemble Moth storytelling gatherings, so too do these recorded clips remind one of This American Life—but so many right-thinking NPR addicts have become trained in empathizing with just such voices.
By the time the short had ended I was almost disappointed to see that it was, no matter how well executed, yes, a commercial for AA. But on second thought, that’s the best use for such a fine piece of work.
One of the pleasures of crate-digging for old 45s are the colorful labels—the swirly Capitol design to be sure, but also Dunwich, Cameo, Etiquette, Chess, and Laurie, just to name a few. Jarvis Cocker of Pulp currently has an exhibition running at Red Bull Paris that plays on just such glories, an exhibition called “20 Golden Greats” that whimsically imagines an alternate world in which Jarvis was putting out singles for Polydor, London, and Belter Records. In an interview, Cocker mentioned that Pulp has received gold and even platinum records, but he had no interest in them and gave them to his mum for safekeeping.
His interest, however, was sparked by the idea of painting his own record labels for imaginary songs he never recorded for labels he was never involved with. For instance, there’s “22/7” for Map City Records, home of We the People; “Partystopper” for London Records, who obviously put out songs by some band called the Rolling Stones; “Love Handles” for Polydor, home of Slade and Motörhead; and “Am I Missing Something?” on Capitol, of the aforementioned orange and yellow swirl.
Jarvis clearly appreciated the economy of suggesting an entire recording session and radio run of a song with just a couple of words: “Titles are an important part of the music; in just a few words, they reflect an artist’s imagination. ... As a songwriter, someone who works with words, I enjoy the challenge of expressing something in barely three words.”
They started out as regular records, but in an apparent twist of egomania, I decided that they should be Gold records. At certain points in my career I received gold and platinum records but I always felt a little bit embarrassed, I was never quite at ease with the idea and always gave them to my mother because I certainly didn’t want them in my house.
This was the challenge I faced with this exhibition: how to make the gold record something desirable, something with class and sophistication, because as far as I’m concerned, gold records, and especially those you see lined up on the walls of recording studios, are always rather ugly.
The show runs through August 28.
Here are a few of Cocker’s imaginary gold records:
Cocker worked up these three tracks to accompany the exhibition: .
Some more of the labels—click on the image for a better view:
Many of the pieces in comic book artist Jack Kirby and Barry Geller’s collaboration “Lord of Light” have never been seen before. Originally done in black and white, the artwork was recently vividly colorized by artist, Mark Englert.
Chambers of Brahama
The series itself has a rather fascinating history. In 1979, Kirby created artwork based on Roger Zelazny’s sci-fi novel, Lord of Light for Barry Geller. Geller was writing a screenplay based on Lord of Light and tapped Kirby with the job of pulling together the set designs for a theme park that sadly never saw the light of day called “Science Fiction Land.” The film adaptation of Lord of Light was also canned.
Science Fiction Land
Despite these two failures, Kirby’s creations went on to be used as props in the CIA’s infamous “Canadian Caper” (depicted in the 2012 film, Argo), in which six American diplomats were able to escape Iran during the onset of the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 under the guise of a faux film project. It’s fascinating stuff. Now, much to the delight of Kirby devotees, the famed concept artwork for Lord of Light has taken on a new, trippy life thanks to Mark Englert’s masterful colorization that were done on of all things, blacklight screenprints. If these images don’t take you right back to 1983 (or before for that matter), I simply don’t know what will.
The prints were made available exclusively for the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con (which kicks off today) by way of Heavy Metal Magazines’ booth (#1529) for $210 each to attendees who pre-ordered them. Sadly, all the prints appear to already be sold out. The colorized prints will also be featured in Heavy Metal Magazine #276 (out on shelves on August 19th). More images of Kirby and Geller’s super psychedelic screenprints follow. LSD not included (but trust me, you won’t need it).
Jesse Bearden is an illustrator and art director who hails from Austin, TX and has a clear flair for portraiture. Her online portfolio is full of quite nice pencil, ink, and watercolor works, but she really shines when she takes her work to the fridge and pantry. Her Instagram—totally worth following, I suppose it should go without saying—is full of wonderful celebrity portraits that she executed in food. Few of the foods chosen are conceptually pertinent—Caitlyn Jenner rendered in Wheaties (and what I assume must be Cocoa Pebbles?) was a gimme, no? But Bearden’s choices are still inspired: the frosting Beyonce, condiment Notorious B.I.G., bagel John Lennon, chocolate Elvis (SO MUCH BETTER THAN VELVET ELVIS, RIGHT?) and a Hendrix made out of fruit preserves are all great fun. This thread in her personal work looks to be creeping into Bearden’s professional life—she recently did a time-lapse video, for McDonald’s, of herself painting a coffee drinker in McDonald’s coffee.