follow us in feedly
Home Made Histories: Classical Art meets Pulp Fiction
11:09 am



The artist Thomas Robson describes himself as a “recovering ex-broadcast television graphic designer.” He spent fourteen years, “focused on producing graphics and animations for the BBC Newsroom in Belfast during some of the most traumatic years of the Northern Ireland conflict.”

The experience of working with “a highly edited and curated visual language” gave Robson an “increasing unease” to broadcast television—where the finished product “deliberately sets out to blur viewers’ ability to differentiate between the contrived world and the real one.”

Every day he was “editing and re-contexturalising imagery into new transient compositions based around multiple elements and perspectives”—all of which (he admits) may have been “a precursor of [his] collage experimentation?”

Robson began to wonder how he could make viewers question the received imagery more deeply. He started to create collages which fused classic paintings with photography and populist imagery. He tells me he was “visually experimenting, creating visual short circuits disrupting the context form and composition of the original pictures. Generating transitory new types of provisional imagery possessing an amalgam of the enigmatic and the accessible. Offering compelling interplays between the residual associations of the original pictures and the dissonances of the imposed visual collisions.”

He describes this process as Art Remix—“a new categories of art composition.”

In which new layers of visual interventions are used to reconstruct and transform the significance of images, place them in new contexts and in so doing make new demands on the viewer.

It is an approach which seeks to short circuit peoples’ common interactions with representational fine art & photography. Forcing them to question images more intently, and in so doing develop enhanced critical skills and visual literacy.

Home Made Histories mixes classical painting with images from pulp fiction. He describes this work as “Rewiring aesthetics, with new visual narratives.”

One important influence on Robson’s life has been living though thirty years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. This Robson claims has made him “highly sensitive to the repressed emotions and hidden meanings which underpin many social interactions and conversations.”

This search to discover the hidden or the repressed voice has always informed my reaction to the highly representational portraits of western art. To my eyes they always evoke questions of what informed their production, just how accurately do the finished pictures conceal or reveal the sitter’s true identity, the artists personality and indeed how such pictures strive to totally extinguish the context of their production in the studio.

From the democratic and more open contexts of today, it is as if the concept of creative expression was repressed by a slavish adherence to a highly codified academic style of painting. Visual language was defined and corralled in a rigid hierarchical structure, by a self appointed aesthetic elite who had appropriated the power to adjudge and frame what was good and bad art, and in doing suppress and control artistic and creative expression. It is this suppression of expression and selective edit of social memory that creatively excites me.

Home Made Histories depict 17th century and 18th century family portraits juxtaposed with sensationalist images of violence pulled from pulp magazines and novels. Here is a secret narrative to what the original artworks are possibly hiding—abuse, oppression, and the growth of empire. Robson’s artworks encourage the viewer to engage and question rather just passively admire.

I like Robson’s work and wanted to know more. I winged him a few quick q’s by email to ask about his inspiration and ideas behind Home Made Histories.

Thomas Robson: I was listening to James Elroy’s Blood’s A Rover audio book (HIGHLY recommended!) which is pretty pulpy in nature, whist collaging a collection of elements from ‘men’s magazines’ with ‘fine art’ images. To see what would happen when such disparate elements were in forced collision. Basically visually re-interrogating received ‘fine art’, by using collage techniques in combination with the tools, visual language and grammar of today.

In practice it quickly a became apparent the narrative dissonances caused by the widely differing elements. Were successfully impeding received ways of digesting the underlying ‘fine art’ images, by offering intriguing and highly accessible new visual narratives. Pictures cleansing viewers’ visual palettes, enabling new meanings swim in and out of focus.

But most importantly of all I really like the strong aesthetics resultant, and there’s a lot more good work to come. Which when translated into paintings should result in some pretty strong imagery to intrigue, excite and repay repeated viewings.


Robson’s work has been included in several books—most recently Anatomy Rocks—Flesh and bones in contemporary art and a new exhibition The Brex Pistols Shrapnel Show will be held on December 5th, The Old Rifle Range, Killyleagh. His work is also available to buy as postcards.

If you like what you see then do check out more of Thomas Robson’s artwork here.
More of Thomas Robson’s pulp histories, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The secret artists Michael Jackson hired to paint insanely bizarre portraits of himself
10:26 am

Pop Culture


Titled “Michael,” this oil painting by David Nordahl depicts Jackson as Michelangelo’s David surrounded by cherubs.
In April 2009, just two months before Michael Jackson’s sudden and unexpected death, Julien’s Auctions hosted a four-day public exhibition of 1,390 personal items from Neverland Ranch at the abandoned Robinsons-May department store in Beverly Hills. The exhibit was a fascinating look into the King of Pop’s personal treasures: from his iconic white-jeweled glove to a wonderland of 19th-century antiques and sculptures. One couldn’t help but notice the high volume of utterly bizarre works Michael Jackson had commissioned just for him: A life-sized statue of himself as Batman, a custom hand-painted Beverage-Air cooler, and a custom golf cart featuring an image of himself as Peter Pan painted onto the hood. However, what stood more than anything else was the exotic menagerie of oil paintings and murals of the pop star. Over many years Jackson paid dozens of artists to immortalize himself and his fairy-tale worldviews on canvas in scenes that depicted him as a figure of modern-day royalty in mythical tableaux. Where did Michael Jackson find the artists to help him amass such an insane collection of vanity? Why did somebody who was never satisfied with his looks spend millions of dollars to have his portrait painted?

Céline Lavail’s 1998 “Peter Pan” Neverland Ranch golf cart painting (from Julien’s Auctions Michael Jackson Exhibition catalogue).
Summer 2003, Leon Jones, a self-taught artist from Buena Park was airbrushing portraits of celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Jennifer Lopez, and Tupac Shakur on the sidewalk outside Café Tu Tu Tango at Universal Citywalk. A strange gentleman approached and asked if he was available to do some work for “his boss.” Jones was skeptical but agreed to meet the man at a gas station in Santa Barbara two days later after being persuaded by $500 in cash. Leon Jones and his nephew then followed the man through Los Olivos, CA, and were amazed when their final destination was revealed: Michael Jackson’s extremely secluded Neverland Ranch. Jones was then commissioned by Jackson to paint two, 15-feet-high murals at the Neverland train depot which took him several months to complete. One of the murals depicted Jackson in knight’s armor donning angel wings and the other showed Jackson surrounded by winged children pointing toward the heavens. “It was unreal, like you were on a different planet,” Jones said of his experience.

47-year-old American painter David Nordahl randomly received a phone call from Michael Jackson at his home in Santa Fe late one evening in early 1988. He thought it was a prank at first, but Jackson convinced the artist it was really him after describing a painting of Nordahl’s he had just seen in Steven Spielberg’s office earlier that day. After their initial hour-long conversation, Jackson invited him to the Denver stop of the Bad tour in March 1988 and soon after a partnership was formed: Nordahl left the commercial art world to become Jackson’s personal portraitist. Over the next seventeen years this creative collaboration resulted in thousands of drawings and roughly a dozen large-scale commissions. Jackson spent millions of dollars paying artists like Nordahl to transform his surreal and mythological ideas into fantasy art.

“The Storyteller” Nordahl shows Jackson as a Peter Pan-like figure surrounded by children including his sister Janet who is depicted as a fairy.

In Nordahl’s “Field of Dreams” Michael leads children of all nationalities (including sister Janet, AIDS activist Ryan White, actor Macaulay Culkin, and Pippi Longstocking).
Jackson paid up to $150,000 for the larger pieces and began referring to David Nordahl as his “favorite living artist” (Michelangelo being his favorite artist historically). Nordahl became a close friend, trusted adviser, and confidant who helped design Neverland Ranch carnival rides and joined Jackson for family trips to Disneyland. In 2004, Jackson and his children paid Nordahl a surprise visit on memorial day weekend, dropping by his Santa Fe home on their plush private bus. Jackson suggested a movie outing. “I thought we were going to a screening room,” Nordahl says. “His driver pulled into DeVargas Mall. He was friends with Roland Emmerich (the director of The Day After Tomorrow), and it was opening weekend. The mall was jammed, and there was no place to park. I took the kids, got the tickets and popcorn, and we went in. Michael came in after the lights went down. The lights came up, and nobody noticed him. He had on a baseball cap and these Chinese silk pajamas.”
Portsmouth-based portrait artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan painted Michael Jackson four times around 1993. The pop star bought the first portrait and then commissioned and paid for three more shortly after that. Cowan’s first abstract portrait depicted Jackson wearing a suit of armor, holding a sword with a parrot perched on top of it. Bubbles, Jackson’s pet monkey, was portrayed sitting loyally at his feet. After the first image of the portrait was sent to Jackson’s staff Cowan received back a strange, long-relayed message. “When I painted it, I had these dogs down in the bottom somewhere. German shepherds. Michael Jackson called up his curator, who called the guy at the gallery, who called my business manager Steve (Mohler), and Steve told me Michael didn’t want the dogs in there,” Cowan recounted. Extremely confused, Cowan insisted he hears from Jackson himself. Soon after, Cowan got a call. “Hello, this is Michael. I don’t like dogs,” he said in a soft, gentle voice. “I like monkeys.” Jackson paid about $30,000 for the 8-foot-tall painting, sans the dogs, which he hung in a living room beside his piano and can be seen in the background of Jackson’s well-known 1993 televised living room interview with Oprah Winfrey. Eventually, their working relationship deteriorated. Cowan explained how painting for Michael Jackson was really like working for a king. “He lived in a fantasy world and if he didn’t like something, you felt as if he could behead you. But the way he does it is by not calling you again. And somewhere along the line he stopped calling me and I thought I had been beheaded.”
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
A slow-motion, underwater fart
10:16 am



I had thought that this morning I might prepare a post about Adam Curtis’ excellent documentary, HyperNormalisation, which is certainly the best documentary of the year, in my opinion.

It’s an examination of US and Middle Eastern affairs and how they relate to the power structure shift from the political to the corporate, and how this new power structure has created a “truth” out of lies designed to simplify complex world dynamics, and how this false narrative is held in place by mass human interaction with a cyberspace that allows people to exist in insular narcissistic bubbles that reflect the user’s selves back at them. This depressing document can be viewed, at least for the time being, on YouTube HERE.

HyperNormalisation suggests a false reality that is at this point so complex that there may be no hope of unraveling it, and it’s the reason whereby atrocities like Brexit and Donald Trump can happen completely under the noses of the groups of people who might have been able to create opposition.

But, yeah, I’m not going to post about that today…

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Silent Night, Boogie Nights: Sexy movie posters from the golden age of XXX
04:02 pm



‘The Night Bird is to porno what Studio 54 is to disco!’ Of course it is…

If you’re looking for just the right movie poster—one that simply screams YOU (or even someone else’s name)—then you should probably head over to our expert friends at the Westgate Gallery, one of the very best curated selection of groovy movie posters anywhere on the Internet.

Westgate Gallery—named after a seedy 70’s porn theater in Bangor, Maine—is now having a sale—and not just on their “Golden Age of Porno” merch, either, but the entire store (they specialize in cult films, XXX and particularly lurid Italian giallo posters) is 40% off. If you know someone who is a big cinema buff (or retro porn addict?) they will love a gift from the connoisseur’s dream selection at Westgate Gallery:

SILENT NIGHT, BOOGIE NIGHTS!   It’s going to be a Merry XXX-mas for everyone on your Naughty List!  Online original movie poster boutique has just launched our 2nd annual BLACK THROAT FRIDAY 40% OFF ORGY OF SAVINGS!  With the largest collection of illustrated/art-style original XXX movie posters commercially available, you can follow The Erotic Adventures of Wall Candy from its white-coater/marriage manual-skanky storefront beginnings with Rene Bond and Tina Russell through the heyday of porno chic superstars Marilyn Chambers, Annette Haven, Seka, Veronica Hart, Kelly Nichols, Vanessa Del Rio, Desiree Cousteau, Constance Money and Serena through the heavily hairsprayed princesses of the VHS home-video explosion including Ginger Lynn, Lois Ayres, Christy Canyon, Amber Lynn & notorious fake-ID enthusiast/Redondo High dropout/amnesia sufferer Traci Lords!  Pick up saucy Pop Art classics by Chet Collom, Tom Tierney, Olivia DeBerardinis, Armand Weston, Elaine Gignilliat and mysterious airbrush queen Penelope, some for under $20!  And our exhaustive archive of large-format Italian posters for American, French, West German & Danish hardcore humpfests is a dazzling array of lush masterworks (and a few hilariously kitschy hair-salon stunners guaranteed to heat up any boudoir, by the same top Euro commercial artists—Enzo Sciotti, Mafe, Aller, Morini, Sandro Symeoni & Mario Piovano—responsible for the thousands of non-porn Italian posters.  Another WG exclusive:  an extensive collection of ravishingly restored, linen-backed one-sheets ready for framing, which, like everything else in-stock, are 40% Off through Dec 24.


‘Dental Nurse’—makes a great gift for your dentist or dental hygienist. Or maybe not. No.

‘il Vizio di Baby’ AKA ‘Baby’s Vice & Ramba’s Greed’

‘Proibito’ AKA ‘Babylon Pink’
More, more, more after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Porcelain Beauty’: Alluring portraits of albinos
03:12 pm



Albinism is defined as an absence of pigment in areas, particularly the eyes, hair, and skin, where pigment is almost always present in humans. It is a congenital disorder that results in an absence of or defect in tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme that plays a role in the production of melanin.

Many people who are albinos also have vision defects, such as photophobia, nystagmus, and amblyopia, and the lack of melanin also means that they are at unusual risk from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.

Since they are so rare (approximately 1 person in 17,000), they are the object of unusual fascination. In her series Porcelain Beauty, Israeli photographer Yulia Taits highlights the angelic or ethereal quality that some albinos have. “Their unique beauty hypnotizes me,” she has said. “This beauty is so pure and amazing for me, as if it was taken from fantasies and fairy tale legends.”

Albinism is not limited to human beings—it can occur in all vertebrates. So Taits recruited an albino dog and an albino mouse as well (well, they’re white anyway).

“This series was an amazing experience for me because I could create this beautiful photography without Photoshop,” Taits said. “What transpired was pure natural beauty.”


More after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The strange case of the lovely sketchbooks by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s father
08:49 am



Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the celebrated author of detective fiction who created the immortal (and highly adaptable) character Sherlock Holmes, was the product of an artistically gifted family. An uncle, the marvelously-named Dicky Doyle, became quite famous as an illustrator during a noteworthy tenure at Punch. Other uncles James and Henry Doyle were also artists of some repute.

And then there was his father, Charles Altamont Doyle. Charles was also an artist, but he achieved no prominence in his lifetime. He was employed as a civil servant in Edinburgh, an assistant surveyor in the Scottish Office of Works. Though as a young man he was cheerful and curious, he retired at the improbable age of 46, suffering from headaches, alcoholism and depression. He spent the last dozen years of his life involuntarily committed to various asylums, and his 1893 death certificate lists his cause of death as epilepsy.

But during his period of commitment, Doyle père continued to make art, and even illustrated for his son an 1888 edition of A Study in Scarlet, the very first Sherlock Holmes story. But the depth of Charles’ talent only really emerged decades after his death, in the most improbable of ways:

Doyle’s book came to light in early 1977. It belonged to an Englishwoman who had been given it more than twenty years before by a friend who had in turn bought it in a job lot of books at a house sale in New Forest. This was probably Bignell House, Conan Doyle’s country retreat near Minstead, which was sold by the Doyle family in 1955. For years the book lay undisturbed, stored with other items in a children’s playroom.But finally, on the recommendation of a painter friend, its owner approached the Maas Gallery with it. The Maas Gallery, one of the leading dealers in Victorian art in London, quickly realized that the Doyle book was a major find. Richard or “Dicky” Doyle, Charles’ brother, had long been familiar to art historians as a talented and successful Victorian illustrator, but only in the previous ten years had there been any awareness of Charles—and even then only through rare original works. Here, however, was evidence for the first time of a more systematic output which, in its scope and originality, entitled Charles to artistic status in his own right.

The foregoing comes from Michael Baker’s exhaustively researched biography of Charles Altamont Doyle, which served as the introduction to his lovely book The Doyle Diary, which reproduced the unearthed sketchbook/journal. Doyle’s drawings reproduced therein reveal a melancholic soul—hardly surprising as all the works are dated during his lengthy confinement—with a naturalist’s flair for rendering birds and flora, plus an interest in the Victorian vogue for fairies. It’s a volume of escapist work, heavy on spiritualist and fantasy themes, and it opens with the inscription “Keep steadily in view that this Book is ascribed wholly to the produce of a MADMAN. Whereabouts would you say was the deficiency of Intellect? Or depraved taste? If in the whole Book you can find a single evidence of either, mark it and record it against me.” Doyle clearly bristled strongly against his internment, and found in art an escape.

The Doyle Diary, published in 1978, is long out of print, though curiously, someone seems to believe there’s a demand for housewares emblazoned with Doyle’s fairy paintings. We’ve selected some favorite sketchbook images to show you. Clicking an image spawns an enlargement.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sex, death & dismemberment: Joel-Peter Witkin’s portraits of outcasts, severed heads & George Bush
05:06 pm



A photograph by Joel-Peter Witkin featuring a real severed arm obtained from a cadaver in Mexico.

Anyone who is a Republican has a spiritual problem.

—Joel-Peter Witkin

When photographer Joel-Peter Witkin got the idea to compose his photograph “The Raft of George W. Bush” in 2006 (which you can see below) he built upon the 1818 painting by French painter Théodore Géricault “The Raft of the Medusa.” To Witkin, Géricault’s masterpiece seemed to distinctly parallel the eight awful years the U.S. spent under the Republican administration of George W. Bush (You miss him right now, don’t you?). “The Raft of George W. Bush” took four weeks to complete and included a Bush lookalike who also worked at a zoo in Miami. Like the other photographs in Witkin’s large portfolio that spans nearly five decades, “The Raft of George W. Bush” though not as grotesque as much of his work, is still rather impossible to look away from.

Originally from Brooklyn, Witkin received his Masters in Fine Art at the University of New Mexico where he has lived and worked for most of his life. His photographs feature a variety of outcasts, circus performers and other humans who often operate on the outskirts of society. Distinctly dark in nature Witkin incorporates a wide variety emotions into his photos that run the gamut from sex to religion. For his more macabre works Witkin goes full-method using real limbs and heads of cadavers—something he is only able to do legally in Mexico. There is much to digest when it comes to Witkin’s work which contain elements of Surrealism, collage and homages to still-life “Vanitas” style paintings from the 1600s that use the symbolism of skulls to remind the viewer that the arrival of death is inevitable. While there are many of Witkin’s photos that I can’t show you here as they feature nudity too explicit for a family publication like DM (you can see them here if you’d like), I have posted what I still believe is a compelling cross-section of his photographs below. I’ve also included an excerpt from the 2013 documentary film on the artist, Joel-Peter Witkin: An Objective Eye.

‘The Raft of George W. Bush,’ 2006.

‘Bad Student,’ 2007.
More Witkin after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Nightmares’: The perfect calendar for 2017
09:40 am



If you think 2016 has been a bad year then be prepared for what may come in 2017 with John Coulthart’s magnificent Nightmares calendar.

Following on from his highly successful Lovecraft calendar last year, artist, writer and all round good guy Coulthart has pulled together a rich selection of his finest artwork to create an eye-catching calendar for 2017. His theme this time round is nightmares—which may be apt considering some of this year’s startling events.

Coulthart has picked some of his best known (and some little known) artwork from the mid-1990s—including paintings of Lord Horror, the Burroughs influenced Red Night Rites diptych and “one of the pages from [his] Kabbalistic collaboration with Alan Moore, The Great Old Ones.”

I like Coulthart’s work—it unsettles those dark corners where imagination grows wild—and think his Nightmares 2017 will look damned good on any wall. Order yours here.
January: ‘Steps of Descent ‘(digital, 2008).
February: ‘Untitled’ (acrylics on board, 1997).
Take a peek at what the rest of 2017 has in store for you on John Coulthart’s ‘Nightmares’ calendar, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Surreal depictions of the human body by the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ of the art world
09:28 am



A painting by Valerio Carruba.
Valerio Carruba uses the technique of painting two identical images on top of one another, a process that removes all traces of brush strokes on his canvas. It also lends a distinctly surreal aspect to Carruba’s hyperrealistic paintings.

For his series of paintings that feature vivisected people Carruba drew inspiration from ancient and contemporary anatomy and surgery atlases. In addition Carruba also says this particular series of work came to life thanks to the iconography of Saint Bartholomew. If you’re not hip to Saint Bart’s story it goes like this: In the New Testament Saint Bartholomew was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. After helping a king in India get rid of a nasty ol’ demon, the king’s priests (who were pagans) sold Saint Bartholomew out to the king’s brother who had Bartholomew flayed (or skinned alive) as punishment. Owch.

So like the unfortunate saint, Carruba’s painted people are also having their skin removed while seemingly still alive. His subjects show a range of emotions including fear and even indifference despite their dramatic physical state. The art blog Street Anatomy referred to Carruba as the “Hannibal Lecter” of the art world. A fair comparison when you consider Lecter’s penchant for expertly dismembering his victims with the precision of a skilled surgeon. Though they are beautiful works of art, the images in this post are probably NSFW. I’ve also included a few of Carruba’s paintings that feature gorgeous wavy-haired beings that I know you’re going to dig.


More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
These pairs of photographs get super dirty when you combine them in your head
02:03 pm



Prolific French photographer Sacha Goldberger has put together a marvelous series of paired tableaux that serve as erotic meditations on différance, sex, loneliness, and conflict, and they also function as clever puzzles or fractured narrative that it’s up to the viewer to figure out or complete. The series is called Secret Eden, and it gets more NSFW as more information is revealed.

Every portrait actually consists of two photographs, which go together. In every case some of the subjects are in one of the photos and some are in the other one—both of which depict the same place from the same angle but at different times. When you take in a pair of the photographs, the mind is obliged to superimpose the figures literally “onto” each other, as the people in the pictures (often half-naked and/or supine) inevitably combine to create familiar images of coitus or fellatio.

In lay terms, you look at the two pictures, put ‘em together in your mind, and they’re fuckin’.

Such games do not define the limits of Goldberger’s art, however. On a purely technical level the pictures are masterfully done, requiring patience and precision in the areas of blocking, set design, makeup, and much more. Although the pictures in Secret Eden range in setting from the distant past to the distant future, the core of the images define or exploit a meticulously imagined midcentury modern environment that will cause you to remember the UN building in NYC, the architecture of Eero Saarinen, and the many evocative interiors of Mad Men.

Further, Goldberger runs with the twinned nature of his own project to come up with scenarios that play on the Romeo-and-Juliet-ish binaries that govern our lives—East/West, male/female, black/white, man/beast, and day/night. One of the dual portraits imagines the Cold War coupling of a female U.S. soldier and her male counterpart from the USSR. Another reimagines Planet of the Apes as a sex romp. Others have fun with our shared fairy tale heritage or the rarefied nobility of centuries past. The invariably indifferent or nonplussed expressions only serve to accentuate the essential loneliness captured by the idea.

Two years ago (almost to the day, actually) we looked at “Super Flemish,” another project of Goldberger’s that remagined the superheroes of our own era as 16th-century aristocrats.

French Garden

A Dog’s Life

Ape’s Patrol
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Page 2 of 305  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›