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Doorway to Joe: The Art of Joe Coleman
06:12 pm


Joe Coleman

This past weekend, April 8, the saw the opening reception of “Doorway to Joe: The Art of Joe Coleman” at Cal State Fullerton’s Begovich Gallery. Featuring 35 paintings from Coleman’s work, the mindboggling exhibition continues through Saturday, May 20 and is a must-see should you find yourself in Southern California in the next month or so.

Additionally, in a side exhibit at Hollywood’s macabre Museum of Death, the painter and his wife Whitney Ward unveiled their matching his-n-hers dream vessel hard-carved wooden coffins from Ghana.

Here’s a short report from the show shot and edited by Eric Mittleman…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Joe Coleman on Captain Beefheart, GG Allin and blowing himself up
02:53 pm


Joe Coleman

Austrian writer Clemens Marschall’s Avant-Garde from Below: Transgressive Performance from Iggy Pop to Joe Coleman and GG Allin (distributed in the US by Last Gasp) is a beautifully published hardback book about his adventures in the American counterculture. I found it a highly enjoyable read. I love interview books to begin with and if you’re hungry for the flavor of a classic RE/Search volume, this 2016 publication—which includes an interview with RE/Search’s own V. Vale, among other characters such as Richard Kern, Monte Cazzaza, SRL’s Mark Pauline, Greil Marcus, Stooge James Williamson, writer George Petros and art critic Carlo McCormick—should sate your appetite with its densely packed 409 pages.

In an email, he described his interviews having:

“...a focus on performance in the twilight zone between avant-garde and self-destruction; some people like Iggy Pop and Joe Coleman found a way out of that dangerous downward spiral, whereas GG Allin took it right to the end. And it’s also about playing with fire, taking things too far: A lot of people find it funny to pretend being into serial killers and violence, but once they really get into it, the fun stops pretty quickly. That’s one of the reasons why Sondra London ends the book. She is one of those who couldn’t stop and had to pay for her transgressions again and again.”

Marschall’s obsessions include freak shows, sex museums, murderers and dive bars. He lists among his odd jobs “sorting Jello Biafra’s huge record collection.” Below, an excerpt from Avant-Garde from Below: Transgressive Performance from Iggy Pop to Joe Coleman and GG Allin, a short, but nevertheless wide-ranging interview with painter Joe Coleman. At the very end, Joe’s wife, photographer Whitney Ward, says something about her husband’s youthful criminal proclivities that caused me to laugh out loud.

Clemens Marschall: Almost everyone who got involved with transgressive performance refers to Iggy Pop as a huge influence. Was Iggy also important to you?

Joe Coleman: No, I knew very little about Iggy. I had this punk band called Steel Tips back in the ’70s, but my influences came from country, western and blues. Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, was maybe the most transgressive influence that I had at that time. I consider Trout Mask Replica a really ground-breaking record. Don had his band kinda trapped in his house where he kept them performing like 18 hours a day and fed them with beans and a slice of bread – maybe, if they played well. And he taught them the music on a piano that he couldn’t play. He would bang out the piano keys and ask them to imitate what he’d just played, but he didn’t even know what the fuck he was doing! [laughs] And when they finally tried to get it exactly the way that he had murdered those keys, then he would say, “OK, now you play it like you were jumping out of a window!” [laughs]

That’s the kind of stuff that interested me back at the time, and then also the performers in Austria, the Viennese Actionists: Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. They were more of an influence because I was trying to combine music and performance, turn tribal rituals into some kind of performance that I wanted to bring back to psychopathology.

You were getting away from music and focusing on performance from very early only, making it more pure. But did you ever feel satisfied with the Steel Tips or was it that you always wanted to put it one step ahead, get rid of the musical context?

Joe Coleman: At one point, at the beginning, I trusted the music, but not for very long. There’s always something in music that would make it somehow acceptable, create a border, like a caption over the events. What I preferred was walking into strangers’ homes and blowing myself up, where there are no borders. I wanted to get back to that kind of real transgressive energy and bring that into theatre. There was that thing called ‘performance art’, you know, where they were supposedly being subversive, and I was looking at stuff like Laurie Anderson and thinking, “That’s not subversive.” When you wanna make something subversive, you set yourself on fire; you point your shotgun at the audience and chase them out. And that’s what I was compelled to do at that time of my life.

The first time I read about you was in Pranks! by V. Vale. I was asking myself if you feel that what you did was a prank or if you think that sounds too frivolous. Because, no matter what you do, you do it in a very sincere way.

Joe Coleman: Yeah, I know, it’s been a strange experience in my life, because a few years ago, when the Jackass movie came out, there was a review in the LA Times that compared Jackass to Marcel Duchamp and myself. I like a lot of the things these Jackass guys are doing – but it’s very different from what I was doing! The things I was doing were desperate attempts at communication. There was also humour involved, but it was a whole different kind of thing. I was paying lawyers to defend me; I wasn’t getting paid zillions of dollars to do a show. I was compelled to make these things happen.

At one point in your career, you and GG Allin had the same promoter for your shows.

Joe Coleman: Yeah, that was an interesting coincidence that at a time a really delightful and beautiful lady called Jeri Cain Rossi was interested in both of us. She’s a great writer and so insightful that she saw the importance of what GG Allin was doing at the time and what I was doing at the time. She went to court for me, she had to pay fines, but she always stuck by me and really believed it was important to do these shows.

Looking at your career, you’ve been to prison for what you did; you had to go to court; you’ve been accused of being an ‘infernal machine’. What do you think about the connection between art and crime?

Joe Coleman: There is this idea of crime itself: when people form tribes, then they form states, then they form governments – there needs to be an antidote. Crime, in its basic sense, is an antidote to the order. But it doesn’t have the honesty that I’m after. Real subversion requires more thought than pilfering somebody’s pocket. Real subversion is pilfering somebody’s mind and infecting the mind so that it actually can be free. The whole structure is built on swamp gas and mirrors and cardboard and that’s more important. Crime just shows the will against established power.

You have been in contact with criminals like Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. Can you tell me how this began?

Joe Coleman: I’ve corresponded with a lot of people that I thought had a lot to say, that were philosophers in their own certain way. Manson is a great philosopher and I remember the first time he really struck me. I started to get fascinated by him when he was in court and said, “Look down on me and you’ll see a fool. Look up at me and you’ll see a God. Look me in the eyes and you’ll see yourself.” He’s absolutely right. For many years, he spoke these really compelling arguments. I don’t have any defense for the murders committed, I don’t defend that at all, I’m totally against that, but what I’m saying is, “Listen to the word of the person who is in pain; listen to the word of someone who’s pushed to that degree; somebody who could speak that eloquently of his own pain.”

I also admire Charles Bronson who was being incarcerated in the UK for longer than anyone else, as far as I know, but he never killed anyone. He is certainly a violent offender but he’s got a brilliant mind, and he speaks of the pain and the misfits of society–and I care about the misfits. They deserve a voice. If society wants to learn anything, listen to the voice, don’t squash it out. When somebody finds out that they have cancer and they’re trying to express it to someone who does not have cancer, it’s uncomfortable for the person who’s listening. In fact, the person who’s listening almost feels like the mere mention of the word ‘cancer’ can cause them to have the disease as well. It makes them wanna remove themselves from the connection. But if you really want to avoid cancer, then you better listen and talk with that person and not ignore them!

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘All Things Under Heaven’: Listen to the blistering evil of the new album from The Icarus Line
03:41 pm


Joe Coleman
The Icarus Line
Joe Cardamone

There is a blistering, hypnotic, exciting new album by The Icarus Line titled All Things Under Heaven that drops today. In fact, it’s dropping right into your lap, right here, right now if you are willing to just hit play.

All Things Under Heaven is a ferocious beast. Pulverizing. Intense. A snarling motherfucker of an album. I just just finished listening to it and it’s a real headfuck. (Alternately, it’s like having your head smashed against the sidewalk repeatedly, but I mean that only in the best possible way. I’m already going back for more of this punishment)

Last night, Icarus Line mainman Joe Cardamone sent out the following missive announcing the release of All Things to the faithful:

My People

It’s Christmas eve for everyone who gives a fuck about The Icarus Line. Tomorrow All Things Under Heaven will be released into the wild.  The savage hordes can rip it to shreds and devour the carcass. I don’t need to get into the details here but it was a long few years leading up to this release.  We had to endure some of the most trying circumstances even set in front of us, and that my friends is saying a lot.  I am positive all of these moments are captured in this document that we have made.  There was no better way of explaining it, so the record had to be made.  When it was done being recorded I knew that we could have gone no further, not at that moment. Everything was left there on the tape. I hardly look back on these records we make.  It’s not my record to experience any longer, making it was enough.  Now it’s offered to you.

You will have a chance to stream the album in its entirety courtesy of the great folks at Dangerous Minds. They will have it streaming for some period of time then it will shut off.  I do want to raise this notion though; if you think it’s a compelling ride, buy yourself a copy. Buy a hard copy.  All Things is made to be experienced in full, much like a film. It will hardly make any sense if you skip through or listen in the style that we are quickly being programmed to do. The fidelity of a stream will somewhat cut you off from the contents and you will have robbed yourself of a total immersion.  If you have a long drive to do, this is made for that.  Try replacing the meal that a film was supposed to fill. Having a full definition CD or LP will offer you a window into some real shit.  This document is walking into hospitals and watching people fall away from light.  It’s also heavily propelled by unconditional love for the subjects that offered its muse. Nothing is an accident but yet it all seems like one big accident. Important things get by us every day. All Things Under Heaven is a pure cut. If you have had the itch now is the time to scratch it.  This will be an exercise in burning the past. Tell the world around you and do not miss out. 

Tomorrow we give you the whole heart, the real shit, new old language,  the stuff that’s bent back into shape.  See you all very soon.

Note the part about listening to All Things Under Heaven during a road trip. I’d say don’t put it on until the wee hours. Wait until about 2am and then let this demon posses you.

I asked Joe Cardamone a few questions via email this morning:

Richard Metzger: Most artists are starting to orient their careers more to the single, whereas this is a two-record longplayer. What sort of journey is the listener in store for?

Joe Cardamone: The listener is in store for something more akin a film in spirit. Although there are some near bite-sized scenes on this LP, most of it was conjured in the moment that it was recorded. In that sense we didn’t have a hell of lot of control over how long some of the pieces would be. We just rattled the room until shit was happening.

Where does your lyrical subject matter come from?

Joe Cardamone: My high school best friend who ended up on meth and in the mental ward. My man’s best friend who died on me. Another best friend from back in the day who started running hard on dope and threw it all away. He gave me all his belongings one day, because he knew he might die soon and he wanted his shit to be in safe hands. Basically just the people I came up with who would have never had anything written about them if I didn’t write about them. That and the war of good vs evil that is raging in the world right now. Seems to be a battle for the soul of the planet.

Speaking of a burnt past, a few weeks ago my old buddy Travis Keller and I did a lengthy conversation about the road leading to this very moment. I haven’t heard it but people say it’s a good listen.

The great heroic painter Joe Coleman is on the record. How did that come about?

Joe Cardamone: I have been a fan of Joe for some years and I had always loved that speech. While making this record that speech kept playing in the lounge at the studio, I think dvd was stuck in the player. My friend Asia Argento showed up one day to hear the progress of this very album and I knew Joe had drawn a portrait of her. I asked her if she knew him and she did, very well.  Asia put me in touch with Joe and I went to visit him in NY to ask for permission on the clip. When I met Joe at his place in NY he was gracious and we got along like gangbusters. By the end of the night he was down to let the clip be part of the album. I am honored.

What are you doing to promote the record?

Joe Cardamone: We are holding a ceremony to celebrate the release this Friday here in our home of Los Angeles. Everyone is invited but it will be especially holy to have those who have had some little hand in its creation at hand. You may not even know that you are on the record, but if you think you might be, then you probably are. I write about the folks that I know because no one else is writing about them and because the lives they lead amaze me at every turn.  We will broadcast the full LP at some point in the evening and let it soak up the air. Endurance time and party time. And we’re touring.
Listen to ‘All Things Under Heaven’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Jörg Buttgereit films Asia Argento and Joe Coleman for German TV

German TV program Durch die Nacht mit (into the night with) puts together a couple of artists/celebrities and lets the cameras roll as they hang out together and shoot the shit. It’s all rather loosey goosey.

In this show, Asia Argento visits Joe Coleman’s home in New York City and together they take a trip to Coney Island, visit magician David Blaine and eat at Keen’s Steakhouse. The show includes a clip of Coleman in Scarlet Diva which starred and was directed by Argento.

This episode was directed by Berlin’s infamous Jörg Buttgereit, known for his early experimental films and splatter fests like Necromantik. Argento, Coleman and Buttgereit constitute a triad of some the art world’s most fascinating provocateurs.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Joe Coleman’s amazing Captain Beefheart portrait
01:04 pm


Joe Coleman
Don Van Vliet

Joe Coleman’s 2010 portrait of Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart, seems like an appropriate thing to post here on John Peel Day. You can get a better look at this detailed masterpiece in the artist’s monograph, Auto-Portrait, which accompanied last year’s Coleman show at the Dickinson Gallery in New York.

Acrylic on artist board and painted frame 24.25 x 21.5 inches. Larger online version here.

Below, seldom-seen clip of “When Big Joan Sets Up” from the local Detroit music show, Tubeworks. Recorded at WABX TV on January 15, 1971.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Houdini: Art and Magic
01:00 pm


Joe Coleman
Harry Houdini

I was really hoping that amazing looking Houdini show from The Jewish Museum in NYC, Houdini: Art and Magic would make it out to Los Angeles and before I could even say “Abracadabra,” poof it shows up at the Skirball Cultural Center, opening tomorrow, April 28th. Featuring Houdini memorabilia galore, the show also has a number of pieces by contemporary artsts like Joe Coleman, Raymond Pettibon and Matthew Barney that attest to the enduring cultural fascination with the legendary magician and escape artist who is still a household name nearly a century after his death.

The Skirball have actually added a second attraction, another magic-related exhibition called Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age. They’ve done up the museum in “period” settings reminiscent of vaudeville stages and Victorian-era parlor rooms to display what remain of the almost forgotten careers of over 40 other stage magicians who were Houdini’s friends, rivals and predecessors. Stage props, photos, original posters, costumes, letters, newspaper clippings and even, I’ve read, some nearly century-old “robots.”

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush & Larry Sloman is the definitive Houdini biography.
Below, silent footage of the great escape artist, Harry Houdini.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Walking Ghost of Old America: Joe Coleman at Dickinson New York
11:24 am


Joe Coleman

Dangerous Minds pal, the great painter, Joe Coleman, has a rare New York art show currently hanging at the prestigious Dickinson New York gallery on the Upper East Side. Only a fool or a philistine in the NYC-area would pass up the chance to see Joe’s work in person, including the new 7-feet tall self-portrait—which took three years to paint—described in the below article from the Wall Street Journal (Trust me, during the last big NYC Coleman exhibit in 2006, on the final day of the show, I hobbled on a train from NJ with crutches and then painfully grimaced as I took ever single step to the gallery and back home. Was it worth it? YOU BET IT WAS WORTH IT!):

The images, which occupy dozens of amorphous panels, veer from the sweetly sentimental—the cartoon bunnies and kittens that fill his wife Whitney Ward’s bedtime thoughts—to nightmarish visions grotesque enough to evoke both 1950s EC Comics and 15th-century Hieronymous Bosch. It’s a phantasmagorical kaleidoscope that grows hypnotic with its minute detail.

“You almost feel like you’re being sucked into it,” Mr. Coleman said. The work, “A Doorway to Joe,” is the centerpiece of “Joe Coleman: Auto-Portrait,” an exhibit opening Thursday at Dickinson New York gallery on the Upper East Side. “You spend too much time, you get what [Italian filmmaker] Dario Argento depicted in ‘The Stendhal Syndrome.’ You ever see that one? It’s this idea that staring at the paintings would make certain people feel like they become part of the painting.”

Mr. Coleman can appreciate that scenario. He’s lived the painting. Once notorious for his literally explosive performance-art spectacles, which occasionally made the New York City police logs in the 1970s and ‘80s, he has increasingly been lauded for his paintings. In 2007, he was feted at one-man shows in Paris and Berlin, cutting a figure Ms. Ward, an actress and photographer, described as “Part Tammany Hall, part Wild West—he’s a handsome and omniscient walking ghost of old America.”

Not long after the exhibit at Berlin’s KW Institute, Mr. Coleman had a chat with his patron, the collector Mickey Cartin, who agreed to buy “Doorway” in advance, mindful that it would take three years to complete. Mr. Coleman finished roughly one square inch of space each day, using a jeweler’s lens to magnify and discover “the spaces between the spaces I’d already painted.” It was a laborious task, one that often entailed brushes with as few as two horse hairs. “It puts the pain back in painting,” he said. “I use my pinkie to balance the whole rest of my wrist. And you have to hold your breath as well while you’re doing it.”

The concept of suffering is indivisible from Mr. Coleman’s desire to make art. His first pieces were drawings made during services at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in his native Norwalk, Conn. “My mom gave me a pad and crayons and a pencil,” he recalled, “and around the church are these scenes of Christ being crowned with thorns and crucified. I just started drawing them. The only crayon I used was the red crayon with the blood. The subject matter has not really changed that much,” he said. “I’m still struggling with these ideas of good and evil, and this idea that there’s something holy in violence. That’s the essence I was spoonfed from childhood.”

Mr. Cartin, in whose loft the work usually hangs—in the company of contemporary and 15th- and 16th-century art—first met Mr. Coleman 20 years ago, when the artist was driving a cab. “I simply believed in him, not only as a totally lovable and eccentric character, but as a very committed artist,” Mr. Cartin said. “He asks so much of himself, and it shows in the way his work has evolved. He is a painter-storyteller, and the stories are not easy. He loves his work, but each painting is a significant internal struggle for him. He keeps no secrets.”

That’s true in conversation, as well. Mr. Coleman, who projects a personal warmth that balances his psychic intensity, recounted the story behind one of the panels, an image of a “Jap Hand,” chopped off a Japanese soldier by an American serviceman in World War II. As a boy, Mr. Coleman became an expert at breaking into a locked cabinet in his father’s den. On one such occasion, while his father was out drinking at a bar, he found more than he bargained for lurking in a stash of pornography and military mementos. “It was this picture of a GI holding the head of a Japanese soldier, kind of proudly, and when I looked at it more closely I saw that it was my father.”

Some things, once seen, can never be unseen. And that’s exactly what Mr. Coleman wants to show. “It’s like an archeological dig,” he said, “but internally.”

The Walking Ghost of Old America: Cartoon Kittens, Serial Killers, Lovers and Literary Lions: Joe Coleman Paints a Journey Through His Labyrinthine Mind (WSJ)

Joe Coleman’s incredible portrait of Harry Houdini is on display at the Jewish Museum’s exhibit, Houdini: Art and Magic until March 27th, 2011.

Thank you, Whitney Ward!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Auto Portrait: Joe Coleman at Dickinson Gallery, NYC
05:38 pm


Joe Coleman
Dickinson Gallery

Above, a painting of Joe Coleman and its life-sized doppelganger.
Dangerous Minds pal, the great painter Joe Coleman, has a major new art show, “Auto Portrait.” opening in New York at the end of the month, and running from October 28 to December 22, at the prestigious Dickinson Gallery. If you live in the NYC area, this is one art show that should not be missed!

From the press release:

NEW YORK—Dickinson is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Brooklyn-based painter Joe Coleman.

The Artist:
Coleman’s portraits create complete biographies by surrounding their subjects with interweavings of minuscule images and explanatory text. Artist and viewer embark on exploratory excavations of the subject’s life through the painting. Coleman’s jewel-box approach means that one experiences the paintings afresh at each viewing, uncovering ever more details and nuances that were previously undetected. An admirer of Northern artists such as Bosch, Brueghel and Grunewald, Coleman employs the same attention to detail and delicate sense of scale, utilizing dual and single haired brushes in conjunction with magnifying lenses to create his refined masterpieces. Like those artists, Coleman also displays a propensity for the gruesome and grisly and often attempts to both dissect and glorify the terrible in many of his paintings, unmasking with brutal honesty the truth of human nature.

The Exhibition:
Centering around a full-length self-portrait, the artist’s largest and most ambitious painting to date, AUTO-PORTRAIT is an exhibition of new work which provides a fascinating insight into the life of this artist. Depicting himself almost life-size, this portrait is set against the usual tapestry of minuscule portraits and scenes from the artist’s life, presenting the viewer with captivating insights into the enigmatic artist at its center.

Around this large-scale composition will be a series of small, religious icons. Painting on ‘found’ folding dyptichs and tryptichs, coleman has produced a group of family portraits, self portraits, and highly personal subjects, with the intensity of religious icons. The devotional format not only gives each picture a sense of veneration, but also references Coleman’s long-professed obsession with early renaissance painting.

Auto-biography has long been the focus of Joe Coleman’s painting, and this new body of work represents the artist’s most personal and intimate group of paintings to date. None of the works in the show have been previously exhibited or published.

A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition.

Joe’s also got a new YouTube channel, just launched, where you can view close-up scans of the details of his incredible paintings, such as his 1997 portrait of actress Jayne Mansfield, “American Venus.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment

What with the acclaimed release of Brad Gooch’s long-in-the-works biography, and Criterion’s recent reissuing of John Huston’s WIse Blood, I’m guessing Flannery O’Connor‘s receiving more NPR airplay this summer than the latest Moby offering.
Last week, I spent some time with the Criterion disc, and let me tell you, despite the usual “mentat intensity” from Dourif, Wise Blood has NOT aged well.  So, when you’re hankering for some Southern-fried gothic but don’t have the time—or patience—for a full-length feature, you might wanna check out Black Hearts Bleed Red, Jeri Cain Rossi’s 1992 film adaption of O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”  It’s satisfyingly austere, lacks Wise Blood’s grating soundtrack, and hey, who’s that misfit with a rifle?  Why, it’s Joe Coleman!

Jeri Cain Rossi’s Black Hearts Bleed Red

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment