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The career of Penny Slinger, intrepid surrealist artist of the 1970s, is ripe for rediscovery
08.27.2018
08:48 am
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Penny in frame from 16mm film Lilford Hall, 1969, by Penny Slinger and Peter Whitehead
 
My reaction upon recently being exposed to the work of Penny Slinger, a bold and penetrating surrealist multimedia artist from the U.K. who produced her most striking work in the late 1960s and 1970s, was to suppose that there must have been a mistake of some sort. Slinger’s work, which spans photography, collage, and sculpture, uses techniques of surrealism to address highly pertinent topics of sexuality, gender, and identity in ways that make quite a few people uncomfortable—which is all to her credit, of course. What I could not comprehend, given the stunning clarity, precision, and power of her work, was her relative lack of recognition, a matter that a new documentary by director Richard Kovitch seeks to remedy.

The movie, called Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows, places the pressing question of the artist’s rediscovery—as well as a major theme of her work—squarely in its title. Born Penelope Slinger in 1947 London to a middle-class family, Slinger attended art school in the mid- to late 1960s, where she was exposed to the work of surrealist Max Ernst, whose art seemed to address many of the questions that Slinger felt most needed addressing. (Later she got to know Ernst.) In 1969, while still a student, she produced a book of ambitious and bracing photocollages, falling into the rubric “feminist surrealism,” under the title 50%—The Visible Woman. In 1971 Slinger became involved with a feminist art collective called Holocaust, which produced a theatrical work in London and at the Edinburgh Festival titled A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets, and Witches—one of Slinger’s primary characters in that production was called simply “The Shadow Man.” This evolved into Jane Arden’s groundbreaking movie, in which Slinger played a major part, entitled The Other Side of the Underneath, which to today’s eyes might come off as something like a feminist Zardoz without being either self-evidently funny or a failure. That movie was marred by a dreadful incident in which the husband of the cellist and composer involved with the movie immolated himself in an obscure attempt at protesting of the movie. Out of the residue of that experience Slinger produced the splendidly focused book of photographic collages based in an abandoned mansion in Northamptonshire, titled An Exorcism. If Slinger had produced nothing but An Exorcism, her career would be well worth celebrating. But there is much, much more.
 

Poster for Penny Slinger, Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows (2016), featuring Bird in the Hand, 19.25” x 13.25”, collage from An Exorcism (1977), courtesy Riflemaker Gallery, London. Copyright Penny Slinger.
             
In 1977, Slinger, following her muse, largely abandoned the world of bracing high art in favor of authorial explorations into Jungian sexual archetypes and the introduction of Tantra into the modern world; works include Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy, Erotic Sentiment in the Paintings of India and Nepal, and The Pillow Book.

One would have thought that a female artist with work as profoundly arresting as Slinger’s would have become a household name, but in many ways the chameleonic and elusive nature of her work resulted, perversely, in lack of recognition. It could be argued that her work fits in much better with our notions of art today than they did back then, in other words that we’ve caught up to her, rather than the other way around.

As I stated earlier, a new movie about Slinger is on the horizon that has the potential to transform the artist’s currency among the art aficionados (and regular art fans) of our own day. Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows is still currently playing on the festival circuit in the US and Europe and screened earlier this year at the Tate St. Ives. The movie takes as its subject Slinger’s life and career from her birth up to the late 1970s, after which her visibility as a cutting-edge, provocative artist regrettably diminished. Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows investigates in detail the themes of Slinger’s work as well as the salient biographical details of her life, which (I assure you) readers of Dangerous Minds are well-nigh guaranteed to find of great interest. We get to see a great deal of Slinger’s work, which (as already stated) has a knack for holding viewers’ attention. Slinger herself is on hand for interviews in which she clarifies how things looked from her perspective, as are several of her key collaborators as well as a handful of commentators from the art world or academia to supply valuable context.

Kovitch has told me that he is hopeful that a DVD/VOD distribution deal will solidify in the near future. Speaking personally, I cannot wait for this movie to find a broader viewership because it does such an outstanding job of placing Slinger’s career in context and teasing out the manifold ways in which her work speaks to us in the second decade of the 21st century. For anyone tracking the intersection of surrealism and gender, it’s an essential work.   
 
An interview with Penny Slinger, after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.27.2018
08:48 am
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Glimpses of the extravagant Surrealist Ball of 1972

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If you’re ever invited to a “surrealist ball,” my advice is definitely to go. This advice is a hundred times as pertinent if the hosts are among the wealthiest people on the planet.

On December 12, 1972, Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and her husband Guy threw a lush “Diner de Têtes Surrealistes” at the enormous Château de Ferrières, the house in which Marie-Hélène and her sisters had been raised, located outside of Paris. The Château de Ferrières had been seized by the Nazis during World War II and reminded empty for several years until Marie-Hélène and her new husband decided to reopen the property in 1959. During the 1960s the palace became one of the regular hotspots for extravagant parties in France for movie stars, fashion designers, and socialites.

The invitation, inspired by René Magritte, instructed guests to wear black tie and long gowns—the only other directive was to arrive bearing “Surrealist heads.” Adding to the perversity, the invitation was printed in reverse, such that a mirror was required to decipher it. Here it is:
 

 
The Château de Ferrières was bathed in orange by moving floodlights—the intended impression being that the palace was on fire:
 

 
Upon entering, guests encountered on the main staircase a series of footmen dressed as cats who had “fallen asleep” in a variety of staged poses. As described in the New York Times, Marie-Hélène was dressed as “a stag at the kill, with a mask of towering antlers and pear-shaped diamond ‘tears’ on her face.”

Salvador Dalí himself was there, as well as Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, and Marisa Berenson. Baron Alexis de Redé wore a complex hat with multiple faces designed by Dalí.

There’s little doubt that Stanley Kubrick was aware of the Surrealist Ball and drew on it as a resource for the extended party scene in Eyes Wide Shut, which was based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 work Traumnovelle. During the inquisitor sequence, when Tom Cruise’s character Bill Harford is being asked to produce a password to verify his identity, the proceedings are interrupted by a naked lady wearing a mask who seeks to “redeem” Harford. There’s a lovely shot of the gathered masked guests gazing up at her that looks for all the world like the still photos taken at the Surrealist Ball.
 

The hosts, Guy de Rothschild and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild
 
So much more after the jump….....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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07.23.2018
04:33 am
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Greedheads, preying priests and oligarchs: The politically-charged surrealist paintings of Ole Fick

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‘Red Alert.’
 
You may have heard of Postman Pat or rather, “Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat.” If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll know how goddamned difficult it is to say “Postman Pat” without singing the show’s catchy little jingle.

Anyway, Postman Pat is a kids’ series on British TV that’s been running long enough for the big-nosed puppet Pat to claim his pension. It’s been so successful the series has been sold to who knows how many different countries across the world. One day, no doubt, there will a gathering of all the world’s bigwigs at the UN who will suddenly agree on global peace and prosperity after bursting into several rousing renditions of the Postman Pat theme tune.

Ole Fick is the Danish actor who provides the voice for the series in Denmark where it’s known as Postmand Per. Fick has voiced a whole bunch of kids TV and movie imports as far back as Disney’s The Aristocats,. As an actor, he’s starred in quite a few big screen movies and acclaimed TV series.

But acting is just one of the many things with which Fick (b. 1948) has achieved great success in his life. He’s also well-known as a comic who has worked alongside comedy duo Monrad & Rislund—think Rowan and Martin or Morecambe and Wise. He writes kids’ books and draws cartoons. But Fick’s probably best known in Denmark as singer and guitarist with the jazz-funk-prog rock band Burnin Red Ivanhoe—who coincidentally celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

If this weren’t enough to make you want to re-evaluate your own productivity, Fick is a painter who since 2010 has been exhibiting his surreal and satirical paintings across Denmark to considerable success. Fick paints pictures of the various kinds of deluded men who seem to have an overly large part in running the world. The men who feast on havoc and chaos, exploitation and greed. Fick’s paintings are chronicles of the world in which we all live—between the devourer and the devoured—where manners and etiquette don’t soften the damage done. See more of Fick’s work here.
 
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‘Something is Rotten.’
 
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‘Soft Cut.’
 
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‘Epiphany.’
 
See more of Ole Fick’s paitnings, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.10.2017
08:36 am
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Theres a new edition of Dali’s ‘The Wines of Gala’: The modern wine bible you never knew you needed
11.06.2017
12:32 pm
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This month, publisher Taschen is following up on its successful re-publication of Salvador Dalí‘s Les Dîners de Gala with his long out-of-print companion volume The Wines of Gala.

The Wines of Gala may be the lesser known of Dalí‘s two epicurean books, but it is still a sumptuously illustrated and highly collectible Surrealist treatise on the pleasures of viticulture. Originally published in French under the title Les Vins de Gala et du Divin (The Wines of Gala and the Divine) in 1977, this Dalínian introduction to wine was (surprisingly) not a success on its first release. As Dalí contributed no text, it was seen by many as a money-grabbing exercise by the aging Surrealist. The original text was written by Max Gérard (“Ten Divine Dalí Wines”) and Louis Orizet (“Ten Gala Wines”) with an introductory poem by Baron Philippe de Rothschild (“La Cave”).

However, Dalí was involved in the direction of content, the selection of wines and their organization “according to the sensations they create in our very depths.” These are grouped together under chapter headings like “Wines of Frivolity,” “Wines of Sensuality,” “Wines of Light,” and “Wines of the Impossible.” The idea was based on Dalí‘s belief that “A real connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes of its secrets.”

The Wines of Gala contains over 140 of Dalí‘s illustrations—including “appropriated artworks,” collages, and paintings like “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” (1955). The book was dedicated to Dalí‘s longtime wife and muse, Gala, and the volume applies “Dalí’s famously intense obsession with sexuality and desire to food and wine, two sensual topics he’d rarely addressed in his work.”

Though intended as an introduction to viticulture, the section on “Ten Gala Wines” was considered somewhat revolutionary upon its publication and in many ways it still is today. This section ordered wines by “sensation” or “emotional resonance” rather than by the “prescriptive limits of traditional viticulture.” This opened a whole new way to appreciate wine rather than the way used by most traditional wine critics.

It’s a beautiful book, and who knew Art could be a reason to get merry? Click on the pictures below for a larger image.
 
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More pages from Dalí ‘s ‘The Wines of Gala,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.06.2017
12:32 pm
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Realism with an edge: The impeccable art of painter David M. Bowers
11.02.2017
08:49 am
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‘The Observer,’ a startling self-portrait by David M. Bower, 2011.
 

“Making art has always been inside of me.  I think most artists would say that art choose them and not that they had chose art.”

—painter David M. Bowers.
 
Two paintings by artist David M. Bowers are a part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery—which is no easy feat by any measure. Though some of his works have surrealist qualities, Bowers’ paintings also possess similarities to the craftsmanship of the great masters of the Renaissance such as Sandro Botticelli, and Flemish painters Peter Paul Rubens and Robert Campin. Bowers himself likes to describe his work as “realism with an edge,” words which pretty much nail his impactful, breathtaking paintings.

Once Bowers graduated from art school in 1979, he immediately landed a gig working as a staff artist in and around his native Pittsburgh. A couple of years later he would accept a teaching position at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh that lasted a decade. His official career as a serious artist didn’t begin until he was 35 at which time he created artwork for over 100 book covers as well as work that ran on the cover of TIME magazine. All this makes it very possible that you’ve seen Bowers’ extraordinary artwork before but perhaps were not entirely sure who was responsible for creating such ethereal and mind-bogglingly realistic paintings. Here’s more from Bowers on his vibrantly imaginative concepts: 

“People always want to know what I was thinking when I create one of my more unusual paintings. My answer to them is simple: I just really wanted to paint that girl wrapped in plastic, holding a dead rat. The story sometimes just happens during the painting process. Sometimes the hidden narrative or true meaning is in the title itself. I am often inspired by an image that I see and my painting materializes from that image. It will often morph into so much more.”

Bowers’ long list of contributions to the art world have received an equally long list of accolades, and when he officially moved into the world of fine art, he would be recognized by The Art Renewal Center as a “living master.” Some of Bowers’ work that I’ve featured in this post is NSFW, but I do hope that doesn’t stop you from exploring the images of his extraordinary paintings below. If you like what you see then you’ll also be happy to know that Bowers’ work is the subject of the 2006 book, David Michael Bowers: The Evolution of an Artist.
 

 

 

‘The Three Graces.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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11.02.2017
08:49 am
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High Anxiety: The surreal & disturbingly dreamlike paintings of George Tooker
10.09.2017
12:44 am
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‘Children and Spastics’ (1946).
 
Looking at George Tooker’s painting “Subway” (1950), with its central figure of a woman (possibly pregnant) walking among the clean, cold, and slightly dehumanizing landscape of an underground station with its suspicious looking men in trench coats and hats, reminded me of the opening lines to Dante’s Inferno:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

The words seemed to fit. Mainly because of the feelings Tooker’s painting engenders. It’s hardly an original thought to say we’ve all felt, at some point, lost, alone, or alienated from our environment—our actions curtailed by extraneous forces or expectations. But it’s one that is still, nevertheless, true.

The idea that Tooker’s work connects in some immediate, non-verbal way with its audience has led critics to align him with Surrealism, Magical Realism, Social Realism, and even Photorealism. Tooker was never happy with any of these descriptions as they limited, pigeon-holed, and gave a glib answer to a far more complex question. Tooker described himself as a figurative painter who considered paintings as “an attempt to come to terms with life.” Where there are “as many solutions as there are human beings.”

Born in 1920, Tooker came from a middle-class Brooklyn family. In the 1930s, his parents relocated the family to Bellport, NY, where Tooker spent part of youth wandering around the exhibits at the local art museums getting hip to the work of Renaissance and Dutch artists. To ensure he had a good qualification, he studied English at Harvard. He then enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Second World War but was discharged on health grounds. With a degree to fall back on and no expectations to fight in the war, Tooker returned to Brooklyn where he chased his primary ambition to become an artist. He enrolled at the Art Students League of New York and mixed and met with the various teachers and contemporaries who were to shape his thinking about art and help develop his style as an artist. Chief among these were Paul Cadmus (who was briefly Tooker’s lover) and Jared French (who was Cadmus’s lover). These artists were figurative painters who had adopted the Renaissance technique of using tempera —a fast-drying painting medium utilizing colored pigment and egg yolk or a similar binder. Tooker similarly painted in tempera. But unlike Cadmus and French, whose work has a homo-erotic subtext, Tooker painted an impression of the world that was as emotionally powerful and as vivid as dreams.

I am after painting reality impressed on the mind so hard that it returns as a dream, but I am not after painting dreams as such, or fantasy.

In his early painting Children and Spastics (1946), a group of children intimidates three gay men in an alien and austere landscape. The men adopt poses as the children assault them with broomsticks and verbal abuse. Their response is defensive, ironic, and one that is expected by society (their tormentors). This painting set a style through which Tooker depicted the world as alienating and oppressive yet sometimes often comforting to the figures who inhabited it (Supermarket, Bathers, Waiting Room).

In the early 1950s, Tooker and all the other figurative artists were eclipsed by the arrival of Abstract Expressionism which critics claimed better reflected the angst of the atomic age. Unfazed by the fickle tastes of critics and art markets, Tooker continued painting his succinct critiques of modern life, producing some of his most powerful work (Highway, Government Bureau, Lunch, Landscape with Figures, and Ward) in the succeeding years.

Tooker’s artwork defies easy categorization. In a way, his paintings tell a history of modern America, its hopes, fears, and moral complexities, from 1950 onwards. This content has a timeless quality and an immediacy that keeps it as relevant today as when first painted.
 
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‘Dance’ (1946).
 
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‘Subway’ (1950).
 
See more of Tooker’s compelling work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.09.2017
12:44 am
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A man for all seasons: Meet Surrealist painter, poet, and erotic artist Jindřich Štyrský (NSFW)
09.11.2017
11:53 am
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Untitled, from the ‘Portable Cabinet’ (1934).
 
Jindřich Štyrský was an artist, a painter, a Surrealist, a writer, a poet, an editor, a photographer, a pornographer, a collagist, a revolutionary, a provocateur, a theatre director, and a stage designer.

If Štyrský had only chosen to focus on just one of these different roles, he would still be regarded as a highly original and relatively important artist. That he was successful at all of them, gives some idea of this remarkable man’s prodigious talents

Jindřich Štyrský was born in Lower Čermná, Czechoslovakia, on August 11th, 1899. It’s variously written in different biographies all probably copying the same source that Štyrský was deeply affected by the death of his 21-year-old half-sister Marie when he was five. How this impinged on his life is never quite revealed—other than his later erotic artwork where she becomes the object of his desire and that he carried the same genetic defect (a bad heart) that inevitably led to his own demise. Štyrský had a natural talent for art which led him to study at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. His early work (like “Church on the Hill”) showed his interest in Cubism but hardly suggests the provocative and revolutionary work that was to come.

During the early 1920s, he formed a relationship/collaboration with the artist Toyen (aka Marie Čermínová). Toyen preferred to be addressed as “he” or “him” defying gender roles and confounding the male dominated art world with his sexually explicit erotic drawings. Štyrský and Toyen joined the avant-garde group Devětsil where they exhibited their paintings. Štyrský also became involved with the group’s theatrical wing the Liberated Theater, where he worked as designer and director. Together with Toyen, he also formed Artificialism—an artistic response to Cubism which proposed “Leaving reality alone” and striving for “maximum imaginativeness.”

Artificialism is the identification of painter and poet. It negates painting as a mere formal game and entertainment for the eyes (subjectless painting).  It negates formally historicizing painting (Surrealism).  Artificialism has an abstract consciousness of reality.  It does not deny the existence of reality, but it does not use it either.  Its interest focuses on poetry that fills the gaps between real forms and that emanates from reality.  It reacts to the latent poetry of interiors of real forms by pursuing positive continuity.

Whatever that may mean. Perhaps understandably, it was a short-lived movement from 1927-28.

In 1930 Štyrský started the Erotic Review, and together with Toyen produced an array of startling and highly explicit imagery for the magazine. Toyen wanted to eroticize everything. Štyrský wanted to épater la bourgeoisie. God was dead. Let’s fuck. His erotica was banned and had to be published privately via subscription. The only problem with épater la bourgeoisie is that the bourgeoisie is the only group that can afford to buy the material intended to shock them, and the offspring of la bourgeoisie embrace these supposedly shocking ideas with little objection. Yet, Štyrský saw this all as creating a revolution which would eventually change society. This may be all right in theory but in practice, well, Czechoslovakia fell first under the cosh of the Nazis and then the Soviets who had their own ideas of how to épater la bourgeoisie.

In 1935 Štyrský became a founding member of the Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia. This was in large part inspired by his and Toyen’s visit to Paris to meet with André Breton. It was during one of these trips in 1935, that Štyrský fell seriously ill and almost died. Though he never regained full health again, Štyrský still managed to produce a phenomenal amount of artwork during the last seven years of his life.

To give some idea of Štyrský‘s range as an artist, here’s a small selection of his work from early paintings to erotic collages and photography 1921-42.
 
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‘Church on the Hill’ (1921).
 
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‘Country Cemetery’ (1928).
 
More Surreal and explicit work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.11.2017
11:53 am
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Trip out to the wild work of ‘Karaska’ the psychedelic surrealist from Kiev
08.29.2017
07:04 am
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I recently came across the mind-expanding, surrealist collage artwork of Kiev, Ukraine’s Vadim Karasev. Having worked freelance under the pseudonym Karaska since 2013, Karasev’s postmodern vision is the product of several difficult years of personal self-realization and creative discovery. “Generally, I’m an engineer by education,” Karasev explained via email exchange. “I had to study and develop art on my own, which for me is the most amazing journey. The journey into the depths of oneself.”
 
This path toward innovation saw stylistic influences by the likes of Giorgio De Chirico, René Magritte, Jeff Jordan, and other modern artists, such as Maurizio Cattelan. Additionally, many narratives witnessed within Karaska’s work are inspired by classical literature from novelists Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and André Breton, and many others. “I’m interested in the theme of the mystery of dreams and reality, mixing them, moving from one to another,” Karasev highlights. “These two worlds are interrelated and equally important, they exist, complementing each other and forming our reality.”
 
Take a look at some of Karaska’s reality-shifting examples of psychoactive new surrealism below.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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08.29.2017
07:04 am
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Dutch master: The grotesque & twisted surrealism of Johfra Bosschart
08.07.2017
02:27 pm
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“The genius of Port Lligat.” A painting done in 1985 by Dutch painter Johfra Bosschart. Johfra is pictured to the left of the giant Dalí head.
 
Up until his death at the age of 78, Dutch painter Johfra Bosschart was driven to create his art by mystical and occult ideologies. The artist himself has said that he has been inspired by many things, including astrology, magic, and organized religion—specifically citing the Bible as a creative force in his work. Following his passing, his large portfolio, including writings and never-before-seen paintings were shown in public eventually leading to the publication of a book in 2001 that compiled 60-plus-years of Bosschart’s inspiring endeavours, Johfra: Highest Lights and Deepest Shadows.

Like his art, Johfra’s life was a bit strange. Born Franciscus Johannes Gijsbertus van den Berg in 1919, he would work under the moniker “Johfra” beginning in 1945—a name he devised by borrowing the first three letters from his first two names, Franciscus Johannes. Later that same year his home in the Hague and approximately 400 of his paintings were blown to bits by a bomb, thankfully while the artist was not in it. During the German occupation of Holland, Johfra and his fellow artists were rightfully afraid to showcase their work and had little contact with the world beyond their homeland. It was during this time that the artist got his hands on a copy of a German publication that condemned the work of various artists whom the Nazis had labeled “degenerate” such as Salvador Dalí, Rudolf Schlichter, and Yves Tanguy. Deeply moved by the work of Dalí, Johfra began to cultivate his inner-surrealist once the war was over. His obsession with Dalí would culminate in Johfra traveling to Dalí‘s mythical home that he shared with his wife and muse Gala in Port Lligat, Catalonia, Spain. At the time, Dalí was working on his massive masterpiece, “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” The eccentric artist welcomed Johfra into his studio to see the painting, though the fairy-tale meeting with his idol left Johfra rather underwhelmed, prompting him to write an entry in his diary about it. Here’s an excerpt from the entry below:

“This visit left a storm of conflicting thoughts and feelings behind us. I found him repulsive yet sympathetic and tragic. An imprisoned person who is forced to be the figure that he himself has created. A victim of a world in which he is the fool, and of himself through his boundless vanity, making him impossible to break out of this situation. What I missed completely was every trace of joy and humour.”

Johfra would marry twice—both times to other influential painters, Diana Vandenberg in 1952 and later Ellen Lórien in 1973. This would be the same year that Johfra would receive a commission to paint posters based on the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac. The series was wildly popular and the artist and his wife—who often appears in Johfra’s paintings—would live out their days in a remote mountainous region in the French Alps. Sounds dreamy. I’ve included a collection of Johfra’s incredible, perplexing work below for you to peruse. Some of the images are NSFW.
 

“The Apotheosis of Dalí “1971.
 

 

 
More Johfra after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.07.2017
02:27 pm
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Yves Tanguy: The master Surrealist who ate spiders and created smutty sketches just for fun
06.07.2017
02:32 pm
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The great Surrealist painter, Yves Tanguy being himself back in the early 1920s.
 
Paris-born Surrealist Yves Tanguy is one of the masters of the genre and much like his contemporary Salvador Dalí was a spirited individualist. Tanguy’s father passed suddenly when he was only eight. Later his mother would decide to leave Paris after the death of Tanguy’s brother during WWI. Tanguy remained in Paris, finished school and developed a close friendship with Henri Matisse’s son Pierre. That relationship would help lay the groundwork for Tanguy’s future as one of the most influential members during the early days of the Surrealist movement, something that wasn’t really on the young soon-to-be artist’s radar at the time.

After finishing school, Tanguy joined the Navy. In 1920 he was recruited by the Army where he eventually met rebellious French poet Jacques Prévert. Both Tanguy and Prévert had just turned 20 and the two would terrorize parties during which Tanguy would regale guests by chewing on socks or eating live spiders while Prévert egged him on. At some point future actor and screenwriter, Marcel Duhamel would become a regular part of Tanguy and Prévert’s hellraising antics. After leaving the Army the trio headed back to Paris to keep the party going, which they did, quite literally for a few years, by creating a sort of nonconformist utopia at Duhamel’s home where other like-minded creatives could be as off-beat as they wanted.

In an event brought about by the fact that he was surrounded by free-thinkers, Tanguy would see two paintings by Italian artist Giorgio de Chirco hanging in a gallery in Paris. The artist’s work is widely credited with being one of the greatest influences in the development of Surrealism. According to some historians, one of the paintings in question, Le Cerveau de L’enfant (or “The Child’s Brain”), left such an impact on Tanguy that it is said the experience motivated him to start his career as an artist.
 

‘Le Cerveau de L’enfant,’ the painting by Giorgio de Chirco that is said to have inspired the career of Yves Tanguy.
 
During his immersion into the art world and as detailed in the book Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, Tanguy and members of the Paris Surrealist movement, such as Man Ray and poet Louis Aragon, would contribute to 1928’s La Revolutino Surrealiste—a written exploration of the erotic, and gave considerable consideration to questions such as “what if a man could be aware of a woman’s orgasm during sex?” During this time period, Tanguy would illustrate a series of strangely engrossing and perplexing erotic works. In 1930, some of his paintings along with others by Joan Miró, Man Ray and Dalí were viciously destroyed by violent right-wing activists the “Ligue des Patriotes” or “League of Patriots,” who were provoked by the film L’Âge d’Or, written by Dalí and directed by Luis Buñuel. The silent film was violent and subversive as well as disrespectfully critical of the Catholic church.

Later that same year Tanguy would join other members of the Surrealist movement by signing the second Surrealist Manifesto in 1930 as well as a 1934 letter supporting the decision that led to the dismissal of Salvador Dalí from the group for making statements in support of Adolf Hitler, though it may have also been due to his reluctance to denounce murderous Spanish dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco—it’s all a bit murky. Tanguy had a long, passionate affair with legendary New York socialite and art collector Peggy Guggenheim whom he would leave for his second wife, fellow Surrealist painter Kay Sage. He would paint for thirty years—nearly up until the time of his death at the age of 55—leaving behind a staggering catalog of spellbinding work that is nearly equal to Dali’s in its precision and dreamlike symbolism. I’ve included some beautiful examples of Tanguy’s work here as well as a selection of his smutty schoolboy erotica which is NSFW.
 

‘Mama, Papa is Wounded!’ 1927.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.07.2017
02:32 pm
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Secret Surrealist: The paintings of ‘Naked Ape’ zoologist Desmond Morris
04.05.2017
12:24 pm
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“The Blind Watchmaker” (1986).
 
The zoologist Desmond Morris has a secret life as a Surrealist painter. It’s a career he has quietly followed alongside his better-known day job as a scientist and author of books like The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo.

Morris has been a Surrealist artist for over seventy years. In his early twenties, he exhibited with Joan Miró. He managed to sell a couple of paintings while Miro sold none. Inspired by Dali and Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, Morris made two Surrealist films with his wife Ramona called Time Flower and Butterfly in 1950. When he failed to sell any work at his third exhibition, Morris made the sensible decision to study zoology at the University of Birmingham in 1951. He went on to earn a doctorate for his work on the reproductive behavior of the ten-spined stickleback.

But Morris never gave up on his passion for art. By day he was a zoologist, by night he quietly continued to paint. He even managed to bring his two passions together during an investigation into the “picture-making abilities” of chimpanzees. Morris exhibited a selection of the chimp’s colorful canvases at the ICA in London.

At a party in the 1960s, Morris met publisher Tom Maschler. He told him Maschler about his idea to write “a zoology of human beings and not even use the term human beings”:

Instead I’d write it as if I was an alien who had come to this planet and seen this extraordinary ape which doesn’t have any fur on its body.

It took Maschler three years to get Morris to write this book, which eventually became The Naked Ape.  Published in 1967, The Naked Ape has been translated into 23 languages and has never been out of print.  It made Morris rich and incredibly famous.

When he published his follow-up book The Human Zoo in 1969, Morris was wealthy enough to take time out and concentrate on his career as an artist.
 
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The books that made Desmond Morris world famous.
 
Morris’s Surrealist canvases depict strange fleshy elongated figures which he calls “biomorphs.” He claims these biomorphs and his interest in Surrealism were inspired by three key events in his life. Firstly, the gift of a microscope that allowed him to see the strange microscopic world around us. Secondly, a medical book containing illustrations of intestines. Thirdly, an incident in his childhood when he saw war dead laid out on tables in a mortuary, their entrails unfurled, their bodies torn to pieces. Morris notes his painting “The Sentinel” harks back to this memory.
 
See some of Desmond Morris’s paintings and an excellent documentary on his art, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.05.2017
12:24 pm
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Salvador Dali’s strange and surreal illustrations for the autobiography of a Broadway legend

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Unless you’re a fan of Barbra Streisand movies, then the name Billy Rose probably won’t mean much. Billy Rose was a legendary Broadway impresario and songwriter—now best known for such show tunes as “Paper Moon” and “Me and My Shadow.” If you like la Streisand then you’ll know James Caan played Billy Rose to Barbra’s star comedian Fanny Brice in the hit movie Funny Lady. Billy Rose and Fanny Brice were for a time married. They were a celebrity couple like Brangelina or Beyonce and Jay Z.

That Billy Rose isn’t so well known today just goes to show how being a celebrity don’t mean shit in the long run. We might remember his songs, maybe even read about his stage shows, but we don’t care about the man. What is remembered are those people of exceptional talents who change everything.

Salvador Dali was such a talent.

Dali was talented and prolific. So prolific that he produced posters for the Communist Party the same decade he designed the window displays for Bonwit Teller in New York. Everything was open to the Dali treatment.

However, some possibly more green-eyed individuals thought Dali was only after one thing. His fellow Surrealist André Breton gave Dali the nickname “Avida Dollars.” The name was an anagram of Salvador Dali and was intended as a damning insult. The Surrealists thought Dali was only interested in money. Avida Dollars was a phonetic rendering of the French phrase “avide à dollars” which means “eager for dollars.”

It was Billy Rose who helped the Dali stage his “Dream of Venus” exhibit at the World’s Fair in 1939. This started an unlikely friendship between Dali and the showman known as the “Basement Belasco” and the “Bantam Barnum.”

Dali was so enamored with his new Broadway buddy he gave Billy a series of paintings titled “The Seven Lively Arts.” When these were later lost in a fire at Billy’s home, Dali replaced the work with a new painting called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1956. That’s how tight these two were at one point.

Of course, Dali was shrewd enough to know giving paintings to a big impresario like Billy Rose would establish his name among the celebrity and monied social circuit and bring himeven more fame and success.

In 1948, Dali supplied a series of beautiful ink illustrations for Rose’s autobiography Wine, Women & Words. Rose was like a character out of a Damon Runyon story written by Raymond Chandler. Here’s how Rose opens his autobiography:

I was born the night President McKinley was shot, and a lot of fellows around Broadway will tell you they shot the wrong man.

The coming-out party took place on a kitchen table in a tenement on the lower East Side. When my mother first saw me, she prophesied, “Some day he’ll be President.” My father looked at me and said, “He’s all right, I guess, but what we really needed was an icebox.”

Yet this mix of showbiz wiseguy and Surrealist genius actually worked.

Each chapter in the book had its own illustration—with one (“Poor Eleanor Knows Them by Heart”) having two. Each focussing on some key moment or anecdote from Rose’s career. There was also quite a lot on his relationship with his then wife Eleanor Holm—the woman he left Fanny Brice for—who had been a star of his swimming extravaganza Aquacade at the World’s Fair of 1939.
 
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Billy Rose.
 
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“Look, Ma, I’m Writing.”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.10.2017
09:53 am
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Surreal dolls reveal the dark fantasy worlds that live under their ‘skin’
02.08.2017
09:41 am
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‘Forbidden Fruit,’ by doll artist Mari Shimizu.
 
Fantasy doll maker Mari Shimizu hails from Amakusa, Kumamoto Japan where after graduating from Tama Art University, she dedicated herself to creating and photographing her intricate ball-joint dolls. Shimizu is deeply inspired by the Surrealist movement, especially Nazi-hating Dadaist, photographer Hans Bellmer whose scandalous work often incorporated dolls. Here are a few words from Bellmer on his artistic approach that appear to directly align to Shimizu’s ethos:

The body resembles a sentence that seems to invite us to dismantle it into its component letters, so that its true meaning may be revealed ever anew through an endless stream of anagrams.

Shimizu carves openings in her dead-eyed dolls in order to provide the viewer insight into the inner-workings of her inanimate creations. Themes that run through her work include mythology, religion, death and nature in which rabbits are common themes. Rabbits are symbolic for a myriad of reasons and perhaps as it pertains to Shimizu’s work is how the rabbit is regarded as an “Earth” symbol—as it is the earthly aspect of its existence that allows the animal to retain its composure in the midst of chaos. Rabbits are also categorized as being “tricksters” in various mythological tales and folklore from around the world including Japan. Shimizu’s utilization of the dolls as unconventional artistic vehicles is about as tricky as it gets.

I’ve included a large selection of images of Shimizu’s ethereal dolls below. Some are NSFW. 
 

‘Music of the Summit.’
 

‘Compass’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.08.2017
09:41 am
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Apocalypse from now on: Haunting paintings that depict a world during the end of days
01.03.2017
10:40 am
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‘Paradise Lost,’ a painting by Dariusz Zawadzki.
 
According to his bio at the Morpheus Gallery, Polish artist Dariusz Zawadzki sees himself following in the footsteps of another surrealist Polish painter, the great Zdzislaw Bekinski. Zawadzki started painting when he was just eleven and when he expressed interest in pursuing formal training in art school he was told that his eyesight wasn’t good enough for him to become skilled in his chosen medium. This opinion didn’t deter Zawadzki and the young aspiring surrealist instead taught himself how to paint, developing unique methods along the way that helped him work around any issues he had with his vision.

In an interview Zawaszki said once said that most of the images he paints come from his dreams and his desire to discover “unreal worlds.” Zawadzki is also fascinated with birds and the symbolism they represent and will often incorporate aspects of bird-like features such as beaks and the suggestion of feathers.

In addition to his incredible paintings, Zawadzki is also a skilled sculptor and uses metal materials to create three dimensional futuristic works of art. I’ve included a few of Zawadzki’s sculptures along with many of his grimly beautiful paintings below. Zawaszki’s work is also the subject of an upcoming book that presents his large catalog of artwork in chronological order, The Fantastic Art of Zawadski which is due out in 2017. Some of the images that follow are slightly NSFW.
 

‘Leviathan.’
 

‘Follow the Violin.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.03.2017
10:40 am
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The Surreal world of Coco Fronsac
11.03.2016
10:46 am
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Famille heureuse.
 
In one single day we upload more images onto the Internet than the total number of pictures produced during the whole of 19th century.

In one day—more pictures than a century’s worth of imagery. That’s one heck of a lotta selfies.

Our need for visual stimulus is relentless. We no longer view or experience imagery as previous generations did. The reverence with which some paintings or even photographs were once held is no longer relevant—we view indiscriminately, we consume continuously.

The French artist Coco Fronsac buys old discarded photographs from flea markets and turns them into Surreal works of art. Coco comes from a family of artists. Her grandparents Lucien Neuquelman and Camille Lesné were respected painters. Her parents met at art school. Coco attended art college in Paris before beginning her career as a painter, sculptor and creator of Surreal artworks from found photographs.

Coco takes each photograph—draws on it, paints over it and gives it a new life. If we cannot reclaim our past then we cannot understand our present. These photographs of people long dead, long forgotten have been abandoned, orphaned, thrown to the wind, sent for landfill. We no longer have any interest in them, their subject matter or the lives they lived. By turning these images into art, Coco reconnects the viewer’s relationship with the photo’s subjects. These reinvented images encourage the viewer to take a second look—to enquire about the subject matter and its history. Her intention is to bring people of different backgrounds together and rediscover the connections between us are far greater than the differences.

See more of Coco Fronsac’s work here.
 
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Evidences spectrales.
 
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Ectoplasmes.
 
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Holidays on Mars.
 
More of Coco Fronsac’s work, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.03.2016
10:46 am
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