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.
Thanks to Ramon Glazov!