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Forget Louis Wain’s psychedelic cats, here are his crazy Cubist ceramics
06.26.2017
11:57 am
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Sometimes it seems that luck is far more important than talent. Louis Wain was a talented artist but he was never a lucky man.

Louis Wain was the man who drew cats. He was born in the East End of London in 1860, the only boy in a family of five girls. This meant that when his father died Louis became the family’s sole provider. As he was good at art, he started submitting illustrations for various magazines. These proved popular. This led to his joining the staff of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1882. His artistic streak most probably came from his mother as she had once been a textile designer. Little is known about his father.

In 1884, Louis married the family’s governess, Emily. She was ten years older than Louis who was then a rather green 23-year-old. It was because of his love for Emily that Louis started drawing cats. Emily had a small black and white cat called Peter whose company she greatly enjoyed. When Emily became too ill to play with Peter, dear old Louis spent hours sketching the cat in the hope his drawings would bring his wife some needed cheer and a much hoped for recovery. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Emily had cancer and died three years later in 1887.

The year prior to Emily’s death, Louis had the good fortune to show his editor a small selection of the cat drawings he had made for his wife. The editor liked these illustrations so much that he published two of them in the following edition of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. This was the first real luck Louis ever had. His drawings were greatly received and led to his being commissioned to illustrate two books Madam Tabby’s Establishment and A Kitten’s Christmas Party.  After Emily’s death, Louis focussed solely on drawing more cats. It was his main connection to his wife which also became a way to make money.

Louis produced cat illustrations for postcards and greeting cards, adverts, books and toys. Then, just before the First World War, he designed a series of ceramic cats which he mainly called “Lucky.” These designs for vases—chunky, square, and brightly painted—were inspired by the latest fad for Cubism. Unfortunately for Louis, his designs weren’t so lucky with the home market as they were considered ugly and tasteless and did not sell at all well in England. But fortunately, in America, these crazy cats were highly popular. This should have been Louis’s retirement fund, but a large consignment of his ceramics bound by ship for the United States was sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-boat. This, together with the war, briefly put and end to Louis’ Cubist cats.

After the war, his designs were picked up once again and manufactured in Italy. By now, Louis was in severe financial difficulties. His naivety about the world had led to his squandering much of his hard-earned cash on crank business propositions or foolishly giving it away in response to begging letters. It’s unclear how much money Louis made from this second production of his ceramics. If he did make money, well, it proved of little avail as Louis was certified insane and committed to an asylum in 1924.

Louis Wain’s art and designs fell out of favor until the early 1960s, when his cat paintings became highly fashionable again.

Today, like his paintings, Louis Wain’s ceramic animals are greatly sought after and can sell for as much as $10,000 each. The designs mainly feature cats, but there are also designs of pigs and dogs. As ever, with the unlucky Mr. Wain, some of the designs that flooded the market about a decade ago were considered to be fake. But those who posses a genuine Louis Wain Cubist cat, they are lucky enough to own a thing of great beauty.
 
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See more of Louis Wain’s ceramics, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.26.2017
11:57 am
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The blood dripped from Dracula’s fangs: The golden age of Hammer Horror movie posters
06.26.2017
10:00 am
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I still wasn’t convinced, so the sales assistant upped his pitch.

“And these glow in the dark,” he smiled.

I wasn’t buying it. The guy obviously didn’t know his stuff. Dracula’s teeth weren’t supposed to glow in the dark, not even the Wolfman’s teeth did that. Now I was begrudging the fact I had pocketed my school lunch money to walk into town past the prison, abattoir, and graveyard to buy a set of vampire teeth that glowed in the dark but that didn’t drip with blood like Dracula’s.

“Or, would you prefer this set of Wolfman fangs?” he added rustling through packs of novelty teeth.

To give the man his due, I was in a joke shop among the whoopee cushions, fake dog turds, and electric shock handshake pressers. It wasn’t exactly Transylvania. It wasn’t exactly Hammer Horror either which was the very thing that had inspired me to make this little shopping expedition.

On late Friday nights, the local Scottish television network screened horror movies under the title Don’t Watch Alone. My parents were cool enough to let my brother and I sit up to watch these creepy old black and white films featuring Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, and co. Then one Friday night, on came Dracula with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The following week, The Curse of Frankenstein with the same two stars and both films in glorious technicolor. My mind was blown. Hideous monsters and blood-red fangs. I’d found a new thrill, a new passion that superseded even my Spidey collection and my hopeless dreams of ever owning an Aurora Monster Kit.

For the next few years, horror movies and in particular Hammer horror movies ruled my life. I dug up, sought out, and tracked down every little piece of what-have-you on Hammer and the films they made. I signed-up for the Peter Cushing fan club. I asked for Denis Gifford‘s classic Horror Movies book for Christmas—which was almost a mistake as he hated Hammer horror but at least his writing on the old B&W movies was superb. I clipped all the horror movie listings in the Radio Times and the cinema ads from the local paper and stuck ‘em all in a big scrapbook which I kept for years until I lent it to some fucker who never gave it back. (Rule #1 kids: Never lend people stuff you really, really want to keep ‘coz they’ll never give you it back. But if you can lend it, then give it freely, but just don’t expect to ever get it back. Because that’s not going to happen.)

Hammer started way, way back in the early thirties when one-half of a double act “Will Hammer” of Hammer & Smith aka William Hinds, a jeweler and theatrical agent, set up Hammer Film Productions in 1934. He had an early hit with The Public Life of Henry the Ninth, a comedy spoof of Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII. Then with the assistance of Enrique Carreras, the company made a series of short, moderately successful films including one starring Bela Lugosi The Mystery of the Marie Celeste.

But Hammer really didn’t take off until Anthony Hinds and James Carreras joined their fathers William and Enrique as directors. Suddenly, Hammer was branching out into sci-fi and then horror films with The Curse of Frankenstein which sealed the company’s success and then, of course, Horror of Dracula which famously had a marquee at the Haymarket, London that dripped neon blood from Christopher Lee’s vampire fangs. Over the next twenty years, a rotation of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and various vampyros lesbos made Hammer the brand name for the best in British horror movies.

So, back to the joke shop where I ultimately went for the Wolfman’s teeth, as those green glowing, non-bloody vampire fangs were pretty damned anemic and being a werewolf was the closest I ever came to having a dog in my childhood.

Now, here for your retinal pleasure is a damned fine selection of Hammer movie posters from early science-fiction to late kung-fu vampirism and devil worship. Enjoy.
 
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The Quatermass Xperiment’ (1955).
 
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‘The Creeping Unknown’ (aka ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’) (1955).
 
More marvellous montser posters, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.26.2017
10:00 am
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Painting with Light: Incredible portrait photographs of young outsiders
06.23.2017
06:19 am
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‘Iris’ (2011).
 
At a cursory glance, I thought I was viewing some small figure detail from a Baroque painting or maybe a canvas by a Dutch Old Master. The richness, depth, and subtly of light fooled my eye. This was the photographer’s intention—to make the viewer re-examine what is seen.

The photographer is Pierre Gonnord. He previously turned his talents to photographing the last coal miners working in the pits at Asturias and Castilla y León, Spain. His portraits gave these men a dignity and nobility. They were “a tribute” to the lives being destroyed by economic cuts and governmental indifference—or as Gonnord described it “social genocide.”

Now Gonnord has thrown focus on to a series of painterly portraits of young people. He is specific in who he chooses to photograph, selecting “the person, the individual, alone in the margins of his social group…”

‘When I travel and meet a community, I have time enough to establish contacts and connections, to know individuals that move me for their charisma, sensitivity, intelligence, shyness, beauty … and this is why I decide to invite them (and no others) to do a portrait’

Gonnord takes his time photographing his subject and almost makes it sound almost like a forensic process:

‘Installed in the silence of a room, generally a very small space, sometimes with daylight, sometimes with a lamp, a flash, just one spot … in a short distance, in the same living area, I can talk with the individual, my fellow, a chosen human being, and looking at him I repeat once again this old ritual. A very short moment. Probably the most ancient since man has been on Earth. Strip little by little all the details, and in silence try to catch what maybe is under the skin’

His passion for portrait photography offers Gonnord the chance learn what he describes as “life experiences” allowing him to:

‘Learn from others, listen, watch, see, feel, express. It’s to open one’s eyes to the world, to know other universes, other realities in order to go beyond one’s own small frontiers in the urban environment and enter little by little into the sharing and the understanding of humanity’

and

‘To look into the eyes of these models is to feel in a certain way that we are looking at our own essence as human beings.’

See more of Gonnord’s portraits here.
 
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‘Attia’ (2010).
 
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‘Sophie’ (2012).
 
See more of Gonnord’s beautiful portraits, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.23.2017
06:19 am
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Manson, Larry Flynt, Abbie Hoffman, O.J. and other infamous folks depicted by court sketch artists
06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Abbie Hoffman’s Viet Cong flag tug-of-war with deputy marshal Ronald Dobroski during the Chicago Eight trial as depicted by Howard Brodie.
 
Courtroom sketches in the United States date back to the 17th Century Salem Witch Trials, and were a necessary staple of reporting on court cases up until recent years when the courtroom was off-limits to photographers and television cameras. It wasn’t until 2014 that all 50 states allowed cameras in the courtroom, though by the late ‘80s most states already had. 

As portraits that exist solely out of the necessity for historically documenting legal proceedings, such sketches have never been considered high art, but a current exhibition of sketches housed at the Library of Congress shines a spotlight on some of the talents behind these documents.

The Library of Congress’ exhibition, “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustrations,” features a selection of the Library’s collection of more than 10,000 courtroom drawings, many of which were donated to the library by the estates of the artists themselves.

From the Library of Congress’ website:

The exhibition begins with the work of Howard Brodie, who popularized reportage-style courtroom illustrations with his documentation of the Jack Ruby trial in 1964 for CBS Evening News.  Brodie supported and encouraged the first generation of artists who created the artwork for television and print media.  Brodie donated his trial drawings to the Library of Congress, which spurred the development of the courtroom-illustration collections.

In addition to Brodie, the artists represented in the exhibition include Marilyn Church, Aggie Kenny, Pat Lopez, Arnold Mesches, Gary Myrick, Joseph Papin, David Rose, Freda Reiter, Bill Robles, Jane Rosenberg and Elizabeth Williams.

The exhibition is being held in the South Gallery on the second floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building and runs through Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. It is free to the public.

Enjoy, below, a gallery of some of the more interesting pieces in the collection:


The New York Black Panther trial as depicted by Howard Brodie. Twenty-one members of the New York Black Panther Party faced charges of conspiracy to bomb several sites in New York City. They were acquitted of all 156 charges on May 12, 1971.


Bobby Seale, sketched by Howard Brodie, taking notes while bound and gagged at the Chicago Eight trial.


John Hinckley, failed assassin of Ronald Reagan, shown by artist Freda Reiter in front of a television broadcasting his obsession, Jodie Foster.

Many more after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Old-school action figures based on ‘Motel Hell,’ ‘Creepshow,’ ‘Salem’s Lot,’ ‘Heavy Metal’ & more!
06.22.2017
01:16 pm
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Four action figures from the1981 film ‘Heavy Metal’ of ‘Taarna,’ ‘Harry Canyon,’ and two ‘B-17 Gunner’ variants made by hand by Aaron Moreno of Retroband, 2015. You can get a little better look at them, here.
 
So I’ve been laid up for a couple of weeks and have been watching entirely too much television—most of the time turning back the clock to eyeball what I consider a “comfort food” of sorts—vintage horror films and old-school 80s flicks. 

While my love of horror cinema spans the decades, I usually end up digging through my go-to big three—the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. On a recent, particularly tough day, I watched the first two seasons of Tales from the Crypt which, if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, still holds up in my rarely blinking eyes. Now that you know this, I’m sure you can understand my sheer fucking delight when I became aware of a toy company called Retroband that makes some pretty incredible action figures based on characters from notable horror and cult films. Such as 1980’s Motel Hell, the 1979 television miniseries based on author Stephen King’s 1975 novel, Salem’s Lot, and the terrifying character “Bobbi” from the 1980 film Dressed to Kill.

Before you start screaming “shut up and take my money” it’s best that you know that Retroband’s covetable figures, which are made by hand by Retroband’s owner and creator Aaron Moreno, sell for several hundred dollars apiece when and if they ever pop up on auction sites like eBay. For instance—and because it was the first one I looked for—the figure of “Bobbi” from Dressed to Kill was listed for a whopping $299.98. Figures based on the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, which made their debut back in 2015, will run you a hundred bucks each. If you can find them, that is. I’ve posted images of Retroband’s awesomely eclectic, highly collectible action figure line below.
 

‘A bloody version of ‘Vincent’ from the 1980 cult-horror film, ‘Motel Hell.’
 

‘Bobbi’ and her trusty switchblade from the 1980 film ‘Dressed to Kill.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.22.2017
01:16 pm
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Occult paintings and mystical visions of female surrealist Ithell Colquhoun
06.21.2017
11:00 am
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Like the Abstract Expressionist movement that followed in its wake, Surrealism’s history has largely been written as a narrative of heroic transgressions committed by bad boys, which did no favors for the women involved in the movement. Even Surrealism’s most celebrated woman artists—Meret Oppenheim, whose “Breakfast in Fur” was the first objet acquired by MoMA, and Lee Miller, who moved on from Surrealism to become a celebrated photojournalist—are arguably as well or even better known as nude models for photos by Man Ray as for their own achievements.

Not only was that at work in ensuring that painter/poet Ithell Colquhoun remained an obscure figure, there’s her strong supernatural bent. Surrealism’s interest in automatism in writing and drawing was held in service of suppressing the discipline of the conscious mind in order to develop the unconscious, triggering creativity-enhancing states. But Colquhoun used Surrealism’s methods in service of Hermeticism. She sought not merely the unconscious, but the mystical and transcendent. This pursuit led to her ouster from the official English Surrealist group in 1940. She continued to paint, eschewing her early representational style in favor of increasing automatism, and she increased her involvement in the occult, participating in the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Golden Dawn splinter group Stella Matutina.

Colquhoun’s biography and body of work merit far deeper exploration than I can offer here, and I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in Surrealism or esoteric art who don’t already know her to engage in that deep dive. The video at the very end of this post isn’t a terrible place to start. What concerns us today is a suite of her paintings and connected esoteric poetic writings called Decad of Intelligence. Based on an early Kabbalistic treatise known as the Sefer Yetzirah, the ten painting/writing pairs were created in 1978 and 1979, based on ten “Sephiroth,” aspects of infinity revealed in creation. The Decad has been published in full for the first time as an extraordinary set of prints and an accompanying book by Fulgur Limited, a UK publisher concerned with the intersections between the esoteric and visual art (if you’re familiar with Abraxas Journal, you know Fulgur). From Dr Amy Hale’s introduction:

A key to understanding the way in which the Decad was designed to work may be found in Colquhoun’s relationship to colour theory, in which she was interested from early in her formal arts training. In the 1930s she studied at the London atelier of Amédée Ozenfant, who spearheaded scientific colour theory in Britain, particularly concentrated on the effects of colour in architecture. Colquhoun’s own studies of colour theory were underpinned by her interest in the Golden Dawn magical system and reinforced for her the idea that colours hold the power to communicate both concrete and more ineffable spiritual principles. Similarly to the theories put forward by Kandinsky in his 1911 text Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Colquhoun believed that colours were themselves intelligences and gateways to other planes of existence.

The Decad of Intelligence…was designed to be a small book of ten enamel pieces, each depicting a different sephira, accompanied by a description of their properties. The enamel is thickly laid on the paper, and each piece is a colour study, encompassing the colours of each of the four colour scales of the Tree of Life. Her text is extremely regular in construction, and provides a list of of the correspondences of each sephira, including its location, corresponding part of the body, elemental and planetary associations, fragrances and flowers, alchemical associations, and the vision that the sephira is intended to inspire.

The prints in the folio are quite vivid, printed with metallic highlights that help to capture the essence of the enamel originals. The versions of the same works in the booklet are still quite nice, but less expensively printed, and the digital images we have to share with you resemble the latter more closely. They give you the idea quite well enough. Elements of the corresponding poems were derived from information found in Aleister Crowley’s Liber 777, and perhaps accordingly, the Decad of Intelligence is limited to 777 copies.
 

 
ABSOLUTE OR PERFECT INTELLIGENCE

Sphere of Mercury
Pillar of Water
Splendour a Hermaphrodite

Opal storax moly
Quicksilver mescal
Left foot navel
The names versicles and apron octagram
Zinc Venus as metal

Jackal of the west healer of plagues
Truthfulness angelic Sons of God
Analysis into Four Elements vision of splendour
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.21.2017
11:00 am
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Sex signals: Trashy illustrations from vintage ‘Frederick’s of Hollywood’ catalogs
06.21.2017
09:16 am
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A page from one of Frederick Mellinger’s famous ‘Frederick’s of Hollywood’ catalogs. Mellinger is pictured, with what I imagine was a permament grin, just below the word ‘SEX.’
 

“I never listen to Paris designers . . . they don’t dress women for men.”

—Frederick’s of Hollywood founder Frederick Mellinger on what made him successful.

 
You have to give Frederick’s of Hollywood founder, Frederick Mellinger a lot of credit. After lying about his age, Mellinger scored a gig at a women’s “intimate apparel” company when he was only fourteen. The veritable dream job quickly helped acquaint Mellinger with the ins-and-outs of the mail-order business though he would later be fired from his job for suggesting that the company add *gasp* black undergarments to its catalog. During a stint in the army Mellinger became hip to the existence of the “pinup girl.” His new awareness would end up being a tipping point for the young entrepreneur who headed to New York City to open the first Frederick’s headquarters in 1946 right on Fifth Avenue which he dubbed “Frederick’s of Fifth Avenue.” Within a year’s time, Mellinger moved his base of operations to Hollywood Boulevard.

I’m sure most of you out there are at least somewhat acquainted with what Mellinger would end up calling Frederick’s of Hollywood. Those three words are undeniably synonymous with girlie garments like push-up bras, crotchless panties, and other skin-tight delights, many of which were black. While he was still doing business in New York, Mellinger couldn’t get a magazine or newspaper to run illustrated ads for his racy garment because they considered them to be “pornographic.” Once he relocated his headquarters to Los Angeles and opened the first of what would eventually become 160 retail locations in 1947, everyone from exotic dancers to bored housewives started snapping up his enticing designs. Then, while on a business trip to France that same year, he bore witness to his first bikini-clad woman. Mellinger brought back as many French bikinis as he could which he promptly sold without effort back in Hollywood. Then something happened that would prove to be a linchpin to Frederick’s future success that involved the cops and one of their bikini-loving fans.

A lucky girl who happened to score one Mellinger’s French bikinis was arrested on Venice Beach while wearing it and was charged with “indecent exposure.” The papers went wild and widely published stories accompanied with scandalous images of the poor girl being cuffed and stuffed into a police car. Orders for anything and everything from the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog went through the roof, and it would be almost 40 years until the company would post their first ever loss in 1984. Through it all, it was Mellinger’s determination to continue to push the boundaries of lingerie design that led to, among other things, the invention of the thong panty and edible panties. Well done, Mr. Mellinger, well done.

When I came across the illustrations used during the early days of Frederick’s, I had not seen them before. Most likely since I mostly associated the catalog with the real-life model sleaze of the 80s. The discovery has led me to pursue the acquisition of one of their vintage catalogs that pre-date the mid-70s, which are sadly hard to come by these days. So, for the time being, we will all have to live vicariously through the images below, some of which are NSFW.
 

1954.
 

 
More sexy stuff after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.21.2017
09:16 am
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Dream of Venus: Inside Salvador Dalí‘s spectacular & perverse Surrealist funhouse from 1939
06.20.2017
10:44 am
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The fabled entrance to the “Dream of Venus” pavilion created by Salvador Dalí for the World’s Fair in 1939.
 
Salvador Dalí was asked to create a pavilion for the World’s Fair to be held in Summer of 1939 in Flushing Meadow, Queens, NY. Given a canvas this big, as you might imagine, Dalí‘s concept for what was called “Dream of Venus” was just as over-the-top as the wildly eccentric Surrealist himself. In a letter written to his friend, Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, Dalí reported that the pavilion would include “genuine explosive giraffes.” That never happened during the eight weeks it took to set up and construct what has been referred to as Dalí‘s “funhouse.”

The creation of the pavilion was the idea of noted architect, artist, and art collector, Ian Woodner. Woodner approached New York art dealer Julien Levy and together they quickly decided to give the gig to Dalí. As you entered the pavilion you had to pass between twin pillars that were fashioned in the image of female legs that were protruding from a skirt that had been pulled up above the knees. In various windows at the entrance, Dali placed a sculpture of a nude torso of a woman with another naked body of a woman in a window above who had a mermaid-like tail. There was also a large-scale image of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Dalí had intended to remove the head of the goddess and replace it with a fish head. This was one of many conceptual ideas the artist had intended to incorporate into the pavilion that was soundly rejected by the Fair’s organizers and sponsors. Dalí was so incensed by the Fair’s requests for alterations to his fever-dream funhouse that he wrote a pamphlet called “Declaration of the Independence of the Imagination and the Rights of Man to His Own Madness.” The pamphlet condemned the Fair’s censorship of his work and with the help of a pilot and an airplane, he had copies of it dropped from the sky all over New York City.

Here’s a bit from Dalí‘s “fuck you squares” manifesto which you can read in its entirety here:

“Only the violence and duration of your hardened dream can resist the hideous mechanical civilization that is your enemy, that is also the enemy of the ‘..pleasure-principle’ of all men. It is man’s right to love women with the ecstatic heads of fish.”

 
Once visitors got inside “Dream of Venus” things got fantastically freaky. Two huge swimming pools featured partially nude models floating around in the water. In one of the pools, a woman dressed in a head-to-toe rubber suit that had been painted with piano keys cavorted around with other “mermaids” who “played” her imaginary piano. In fact, the place was filled with scantly-clad women lying in beds or perched on top of a taxi being driven by a female looking S&M batwoman. There were functional telephones made of rubber as well as an offputting life-size version of a cow’s udder that you could touch—if you wanted to, that is. Dalí had originally intended for all of his female models (his “living liquid ladies”) to have fish heads, but this was yet another one of the artist’s visions for the pavilion that was spit on by Fair’s sponsors. What a drag. Despite all the push back, “Dream of Venus” is nothing short of a stunning display of touristy fun gone off the rails. I’ve posted images of the funhouse-style pavilion below, many of which were taken by German-born photographer Eric Schaal. The 2002 book, Salvador Dalí‘s Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse from the 1939 World’s Fair chronicled the entire process down to the very last detail in photos including behind-the-scenes snapshots of some of Dalí‘s models getting ready to give the performance of their lives. Most of the images that follow are NSFW.
 

Dalí and his wife and muse, Gala.
 

 
More Dalinian madness at the 1939 World Fair, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.20.2017
10:44 am
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Welcome to My Nightmare: The strange and disturbing ‘hyperrealist absurdism’ of Beau White
06.20.2017
09:42 am
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‘Savor the Flavor.’
 
A snail sits on a popsicle within kissing distance of a man’s mouth as he willfully sucks out the confection’s chilly orange flavor. It’s an utterly disturbing yet grotesquely humorous image—a fragment of a nightmare, a half-remembered fear that causes a shudder of unease in the viewer. This is just one of the many strange and darkly fantastic canvases painted by Australian artist Beau White.

Since childhood, White has drawn or painted similarly absurd and uncanny images. He describes his art as “hyperrealist absurdism.” He claims no “grand vision or statement’ for his work, but rather wants to “paint silliness and weirdness in various forms for my own gratification and anyone else with similar inclinations.”

There is nothing particularly philosophical about my art in the conceptual sense. There are themes and narratives that are relatively simple and obvious, with the main focus being on the ridiculous.

~snip!~

Although I steer away from taking the subject matter in my work too seriously, I do spend a serious amount of time, consideration and mental exertion on my creative process. That’s where I derive the most meaning in my art; In the doing, not the discussion that follows.

One of his flagship pieces, “Thirst” from 2015, depicts a woman (his partner Isabel Peppard) covered in drying clay emerging from some dank undergrowth presenting a hideously huge shiny leech cradled in her arms. Artists like writers tend to betray their own emotions in their work. When White was a child he used to swim in the local creek that was infested with bloodthirsty leeches. It was a start of a phobia that has remained all his life. However, White prefers his audience to derive their own meanings and interpretations from his work rather than be told how they should or shouldn’t think or feel about it.

See more of Beau White’s work here.
 
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‘Bloodthirsty.’
 
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‘Feast.’
 
More of Beau White’s beautiful and dark art, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.20.2017
09:42 am
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Ralph Steadman’s grotesquely brilliant illustrations for Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’
06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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George Orwell had difficulty in getting Animal Farm published in the 1940s. His satirical fable about a farm being taken over by a cowardly, power-mad pig was seen as an undisguised and rather offensive attack on Soviet Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin. As Orwell later explained in his introduction to the book, it was not considered the done thing in 1940s Britain to criticize their war ally Russia and especially its leader Stalin in any way. (Sidebar: Orwell’s introduction was not included in the book on its first publication and is still missing from most editions today.)

Due to the war, any criticism of Uncle Joe was not tolerated—even if there was ample evidence that things might not be as jolly as the Russians liked to pretend. The media (including the BBC) and its allies in left-wing intelligentsia swallowed wholeheartedly every piece of propaganda issued by the U.S.S.R. which was then spewed out as fact.  But Orwell was never one to be swayed by the heady eau de cologne of fashionable politics. Orwell actually believed in a practical socialism—not one that resulted in the oppression of the majority by a tiny minority as was the case with Stalin, whose dictatorship had murdered up to 60 million.

Eventually, after a series of surprising knockbacks from British and American publishers (including one from T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber), Orwell’s tale was successfully published by Secker & Warburg in August 1945 and has never been out of print since. However, its release was not well received. Certain critics tried to damn the book with faint praise or dismiss it as “clumsy” and “dull.” Now, clumsy and dull are not the kind of words I would ever associate with Orwell’s fastidious writing or with this allegorical masterpiece.

Orwell first had the idea for Animal Farm after seeing a small boy whipping a horse:

“...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

Orwell wrote Animal Farm between 1943 and 1944, during the height of the Second World War. He also added in some of his own personal experience of having witnessed firsthand the Communist purges during the Spanish Civil War which revealed to him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” Orwell intended his novella as a warning and a condemnation of Stalin’s vicious dictatorship and his corruption of socialist ideals.

Political cartoonist David Low was the man who first illustrated Orwell’s political parable. While Low’s work was satirical and well-matched to Orwell’s prose, his illustrations pale when compared to the scabrous beauty of Ralph Steadman’s grotesque scratchings. Steadman provided illustrations for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm in 1995.

I’d be hard put to think of any other artist who so effectively depicts the grim satire at the heart of Orwell’s tale. Steadman’s drawings seem to be on the verge of exploding with fury at the raw injustice of life or, in this case, the political allegory of the endless brutal horror of Animal Farm.
 
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See more of Ralph Steadman’s gonzo illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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