BUNUEL’S “UN CHIEN ANDALOU” (1929)

“Moving pictures merely repeat what we have been told for centuries by novels and plays. Thus, a marvelous instrument for the expression of poetry and dreams (the subconscious world) is reduced to the role of simple REPEATER of stories expressed by other art forms.”–Luis Bunuel

Although Un Chien Andalou (1929) is believed to be one of the first intentionally Surrealist films, its iconoclastic milieu is predominantly subservient to the sovereign elements of systematic realism.

 

True to surrealist tenets, the film’s naturalistic texture is the quintessential ingredient in its theatrical absurdity. In this sense, Surrealist film is antithetical to Expressionist film. For instance, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) utilized distorted set designs to convey dream worlds. In direct contrast, Luis Bunuel conveys the phantasmagoric reveries here through expressive, primarily organic compositions.

In “Sculpting in Time,” Andrei Tarkovsky  locates the pulse of Buñuel’s texture:

The driving force of his films is always anti-conformism. His protest—furious, uncompromising and harsh—is expressed above all in the sensuous texture of the film, and is emotionally infectious. The protest is not calculated. Bunuel’s work is deeply rooted in the classical culture of Spain, born on one hand of a deep love for country, and on the other of his seething hatred for lifeless structures, for the brutal, milking dry of brains. The field of vision, narrowed by hatred and disdain, takes in only that which is alive with human sympathy, the divine spark, ordinary human suffering, which has steeped into the hot, stony Spanish earth.

Andalou‘s cinematography is classic, elegant and traditional. Again, Buñuel utilizes minimalistic compositions (i.e. point of view) to frame complex psychological acts of voyeurism. Buñuel often stated that he was completely uninterested in the aesthetics of filmmaking. While that flamboyant claim might be suspect, this deliberate choice astutely serves his Surrealist agenda.


Extreme close-ups (like the still shocking opening sequence) are utilized only when absolutely necessary. Much of the camerawork is rudimentary and unobtrusive. This allows the viewer to engage with the dialectic thrust between the film’s protagonists and its symbology.

The editing further validates Buñuel’s claim of disinterest in aesthetics. Freudian affiliations, naturally, abound. Dissolves are employed merely to inspire emotional tension. The ants in the stigmatic palm are weaved into a woman’s armpit, followed by the image of a sea urchin. The result is shrewdly discomforting and challenging film poetry. Through editing, Buñuel propels the viewer into an idiosyncratic subconscious mirage.

As a silent film, Un Chien Andalou thinks differently than sound film. ( Charlie Chaplin, when asked near the end of his life, why he felt he was one of the extreme few silent filmmakers who survived the transition to sound, answered: “I suppose because I realized silent film was a different art form.”) This is clear in the use of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” as a soundtrack and a subtext (the music was conceptually there from the beginning, although the sound was only added later). Shot in two weeks on a meager budget financed by his mother, Buñuel could hardly afford a score. However, his choice of music and its context in relation to the film was influential in the “non-writing” of the piece.

Buñuel was an erudite cultural omnivore who raided different art forms to enhance his own art. He was well aware of “Tristan”’s impact and influence. “Tristan und Isolde” boldly introduced dissonance to opera, and the world reacted. Isolde’s “Liebestod,” taking place after the death of Tristan, synthesizes the preceding dissonance through her own transcendental, sensual death.

Buñuel filters this potentially incandescent vignette through a natural, highly lit filter. This serves as a compelling visual counterpart to the narrative context supplied by the usage of Wagner.

Buñuel’s aural editing, again, reveals a psychological rather than an aesthetic choice. Isolde’s immolation gives way to bawdy brothel music. Bunuel’s editing style parallels the traditional rhythmic continuity editing prevalent in the period. Low angles, overhead shots, et. al., employed conservatively, symbolize the relationship between the highly stylized performances and the participatory camera work. Melot’s murder of his friend Tristan is also mirrored by the shooting of Andalou‘s protagonist, rendering Buñuels claim the film was merely a catalog of random absurdities as highly suspect.

Buñuel’s predilection for not so subtle swipes at clerical hypocrisy is already present in this, his first film. He would continue taking such shots throughout his body of work, of course. Some have confused this with anti-religiosity. With a Jesuit education, Buñuel was well-equipped to shock and delighted in doing so, as did Alfred Hitchcock in a slightly more conventional way. (Hitchcock also received a Jesuit education).

Buñuel’s shocking religious imagery here involves a dead jackass and two priests. With dangling cigarette, Buñuel sharpens his razor for the bourgeoisie. Sergei Eisentstein saw Un Chien Andalou as the disintegration of bourgeois consciousness, and Buñuel hoped bourgeois audiences would prove that point by rioting in reaction to the film. They didn’t riot, and naturally, this inspired Buñuel to surpass this clerical mockery in L’ Age d’Or (1930). The government of Spain reacted with banishment.

Salvador Dali, the co-writer who was in some quarters credited as co-director, claimed, after the fact, to have been a more prominent force in the production. While Dali did repeat the infamous eye slicing in the dream sequence he composed for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), Un Chien Andalou is more characteristic of Buñuel’s oeuvre.

BUNUEL’S SIMON OF THE DESERT (1956)

Simon of the Desert (Bunuel)  Criterion

“Moving pictures merely repeat what we have been told for centuries by novels and plays. Thus, a marvelous instrument for the expression of poetry and dreams (the subconscious world) is reduced to the role of simple REPEATER of stories expressed by other art forms”-Luis Bunuel.

Simon of the Desert (1965 dir.Luis Bunuel)  Silvia Pinal

Simon of the Desert (1965) was Buñuel’s final Mexican film before moving to France. His Mexican period is often considered a repository of “anti-religious” films, although a more apt description might be “anti-ecclesiastical.”  This 45-minute pilgrimage is an incomplete work (due to haphazard funding), but even in its truncated state, it is a shockingly substantial work.

Simon of the Desert (Luis Bunuel)Claudio Brook  Silvia Pinal

The ascetic fifteenth century Saint Simon Stylites (Claudio Brook) has spent his life atop a pillar in order to get closer to God. A wealthy patron has an even larger pillar built for the holy man and so, after six years, six months, and six days, Simon, reluctantly, comes down from atop his ivory tower, albeit briefly, to “move up” in the world. Detached irony abounds. As in Nazarin, Buñuel presents a religious figure as a fool, but a stubbornly determined fool to be identified with and admired, with detachment.

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BUNUEL’S NAZARIN (1959)

Nazarin (1959 dir. Luis Bunuel) poster

Luis Bunuel‘s self-imposed exile in Mexico from 1946-1964 yielded a fruitful harvest, and his films from this period are, arguably, his most organic and economically composed.  The director listed Nazarin, based off the Benito Perez Galdos novel, as a film he felt much affection for, and that affection extended to the character Father Nazario (Francisco Rabal).  Buñuel’s paternal attachment to this child/film was sincere enough that when the film failed to win the Prix de l’Office Catholique (Catholic Film Prize), he could express a sense of relief.

Nazarin (Luis Bunuel)

The saturnine Fr. Nazario lives in a phantasmagoric haze, imagining that he is following the commandment of Christ to “take up one’s cross,” but only disaster lies in the stations Nazrio visits.  Nazario does not build his house on rock, but on mud.  He keeps company with a menagerie of freaks: beggars, thieves, whores, and a dwarf.  Nazario refrains from bolting his door, despite the fact that his mob plunders his abode daily.  He is relieved of all possessions, save his Sunday best and crucifix.  Thank God for that.  He befriends the suicidal Beatriz (Marga Lopez), whose self destructiveness is birthed from her incessant need for the abusive man who regularly deserts her.

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BUNUEL’S VIRIDIANA (1961)

Viridiana (1961) Palme D' or

Viridiana (1961) has quite a reputation among film critics and historians, often being listed as one of Luis Bunuel‘s best efforts. It is certainly among the most heterodox offerings in his considerable canon.

VIRIDIANA (1961 Bunuel) poster

Viridiana marked Buñuel‘s return to his native Spain after a twenty-five year absence. With the fascist Franco still in power, Buñuel was severely criticized and accused of making his bed with the enemy, but the filmmaker’s critics should have known better. Buñuel had an ulterior motive, with a predictably incendiary opus tucked securely in his Surrealist vest pocket.

Viridiana Silvia Pinal Continue reading

DISCOVERING CHARLEY BOWERS

  Charley Bowers A WILD BOOMER

In the documentary Looking for Charlie Bowers, film archaeologist Raymond Borde recollects buying a box of silent film reels marked “Bricolo” from a gypsy.  Borde was unable to identify the films or the filmmaker, but found the films quite unique. 

CHARLEY BOWERS.CHALREY BOWERS %22Bricolo%22

The character in the Bricolo shorts was clearly patterned off of Keaton, but the gags were highly surreal, mixing animation with live action. 

Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius

The search for the identity of Bricolo took Borde to the Belgium Royal Film Library and the Annecy Animated Film Festival.  Still, no one could identify the films.  Borde searched the exhaustive reviews of “Midi Minuet Fantastique,” which lead to a dead end.  Finally, Borde discovered a 1928 reference to Charley Bowers as Bricolo in a “Meric Cinematographers” ad in Mareilles. 

CHARLEY BOWERS

From there Borden contacted Louise Beaudet of the Montreal Film Library.  Beaudet knew Bowers as the animator of the “Mutt and Jeff” series.  Together, Borde and Beudet contacted the Library of Congress and struck gold.  With much material, including press releases and hundreds of photographs, they were able to positively identify Bowers as the Bricolo of the reels.

CHARLEY BOWERS Looking For CHARLEY BOWERS

Bowers life story proves as fascinating as his films and the discovery of his films.  Charley Bowers joined the circus as a tightrope walker at the age of five. From there he worked as a jockey, cowboy, horse trainer, theatrical performer and caricaturist for newspapers.  In 1916 Bowers took on the role of producer, opened his own studio, and began producing a series of animated shorts with a small, ragtag team of animators.

CHARLEY BOWERS

In 1924, Bowers began producing shorts which mixed live action with animation, casting himself as the lead.  Bowers character was called Bricolo by French critics of the time. Bizarre animated objects and puppets were part of the animated sequences.

CHARLEY BOWERS Looking for Charley Bowers

Borden discovered a late 1930s reference to Bowers by Surrealist Andre Breton.  Breton had only seen Bowers’ short “It’s a Bird” as an introduction to a feature film.  Breton was surprised by the film and listed it as an important surrealist film in “The Surrealist Almanac.”  Borden discovered that Breton’s admiration for Bowers was shared by the avant-garde poet Rafael Alberti.

Still from Charley Bowers' "Now You Tell One"CHARLEY BOWERS.

Bowers died, destitute and obscure, at the age of 57 in 1946, following a long illness.  Although he made hundreds of animated short films, along with the live action shorts, only fifteen of his films survive.  These were restored and distributed by Lobster Films in France.  This indispensable collection of Bowers films is on the two-disc set Charley Bowers, The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius.

CHARLEY BOWERSCharley Bowers screenshot

Like all great surrealism, Bowers film are imaginatively and aesthetically provocative.  Recurring obsessive themes permeate Bowers shorts.  “Egged On” (1926) and “Say Ah-h!” (1928) both feature unbreakable eggs.  In “Egged On” Charley is an inventor and has the great idea that unbreakable eggs will make him his fortune and allow him to marry his cousin (!).  The Egg Shipping company is interested in his invention so his cousin lets him build his machine in daddy’s barn.

Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius.

Charley builds a huge machine that looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss cartoon.  The eggs come out rubbery, so the Egg Shipping Company comed out for a demonstration.  Alas, Charley can’t find any eggs; after a desperate search, he finally finds some.  Charley lays the eggs on a Model T Ford which incubates them and out hatch baby Model Ts.  This is slapstick surrealism at its maniacal best.

bowers1

“Say Ah-h!” begins with Charley being chased by Cleo the Ostrich.  Charley (looking a lot like Harry Langdon here) has stolen Cleo’s egg, and he throws it to his famished employer, who cannot break it.  Finally, a farm hand shoots the egg, ruining it.  The farmhand orders Charley to produce another egg.  Charley feeds Cleo cement mix.  Cleo lays an egg.  The egg escapes Charley’s grasp and hatches a fully grown cyborg like ostrich.

Charley Bowers

The hatchling wears pants, has a feather duster for a tail and eats everything in sight, including metal objects.  The hatchling escapes, scares the hell out of everyone, dances the fox trot to a record and hatches a couple of eggs which produce more baby cyborg ostriches.  The title indicates that the surviving reel of “Say Ah-h” is the second part; the first part is lost and the second half, presented here, is badly decomposed.

CHARLEY BOWERS
“It’s a Bird” (1930) also features a metal-eating bird.  This is only sound film that Bowers himself appears in.  Charley is employed as a “breaker and a loser” at a junkyard.  His job is to break up the cars and” lose” the pieces someplace.  Charley’s finding his job difficult when he runs out of places to “lose” the car parts, that is, until he hears of a metal eating bird.  A local professor tells Charley how to find a metal eating bird, which you naturally find under a rock.

Charley Bowers

The bird looks like a prototype of the dodo bird from a Porky Pig cartoon.  A worm volunteers to help Charley capture the bird by getting himself painted up in metal paint.  The trap works, and Charley takes the bird back to the junk yard, where it gorges on car parts.  The bird lays and egg, and tries to eat its own egg.  However, the egg hatches and out comes a Model T Ford.  Charley has a great idea: “We will start our own car line!”  The bird laughs, “I only lay one egg every hundred years.”  The ending is abrupt and surreal.

Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius.Charley Bowers The Lost films of Charley Bowers

“He Done His Best” (1926): Charley is an inventor again, with ambitions to get married.  His prospective father-in-law puts him to work in the restaurant he owns, but when his co-workers discover Charley is non-union, they all quit.  This leaves Charley alone in the kitchen and  he accidentally blows up the restaurant in his overworked zeal.  To make amends, he rebuilds the restaurant and invents a machine that will do all the kitchen work, from cooking to washing dishes.  This allows for all kinds of surreal stop-motion animation, of course.

CHARLEY BOWERS.

White-gloved mechanical arms slaughter chickens, cook them, bake cakes, open cans of carrots.  The machine is a huge success, but Charley finds the guests he is serving are guests at the wedding of his girlfriend to another man, ending the film in a moment of pathos.

Still from Charley Bowers' "A Wild Roomer"Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius

In “A Wild Roomer” Charley is an inventor yet again and stands to gain his late grandfather’s inheritance if he can come up with an invention within 48 hours.  If Charley fails, the money goes to Charley’s uncle, who looks like a cross between the classic horror stars Karloff and Lugosi.  Again, white gloved arms do all the work, although the purpose of the machine is not really clear, other than perhaps to pamper its owner.  The arms make a doll, which comes to life.

Charley Bowers

Amusingly, the doll is embarrassed to find itself naked (shades of Adam and Eve?) and so momma machine makes it a dress.  The doll then has a romantic interlude with a squirrel, hops atop it and rides off.  Uncle is trying to stop the invention process so that he alone can inherit all the money.  Charlie drives the 8 foot high machine (looking even more like Dr. Seuss invention) out into the streets and, naturally, havoc follows.  As inventive as the films are, Bowers inability to capture a wider audience is by now quite clear.  Bowers was so invested in the animated, surreal gags, that he neglected to develop his own on-screen Bricolo persona in an identifiable way, like Chaplin, Keaton and Langdon did.

Charley Bowers There It Is
In “Now You Tell One” the Liars Club is having an annual get together.  One member tells of elephants on the Capitol building, and the stop-motion animation for this looks like something akin to Ray Harryhausen to come.  However, the lies lack imagination, so a senior member goes out in search for a great liar.  He finds Charley trying to blow his head off in a cannon.  Charley is taken back to the club.  He is introduced as Bricolo, so great a liar that even the King of the Gullible would never believe him.

CHARLEY BOWERS.

Charley tells the club how he invented a potion that will graft together any two objects and make them grow.  Pineapples and apples grow into a combined plant, as do cucumbers and squash, straws change into a hat, seeds into shoelaces, and the handle of a wheel barrel grows a Christmas tree.  Charley happens upon a pretty girl with cute legs who is stressed out over a huge problem with mice.  Charley grows her some cats, but like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the magic gets away from him and soon her house is overrun with cats.

CHARLEY BOWERS screenshot.

In “Many A Slip” (1927) Charley is trying to invent the no-slip banana peel.  He finds there is a slipping germ which causes banana peels to be slippery. Another machine and additional chaos.

Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius

The rest of the films in this collection are lesser entries.  These include some live action animated shorts, purely animated shorts, and stop-animation shorts.  Oddly enough, Bowers greatest film is possibly “There It Is” (1928), which was not included on this set, but has to be purchased separately within the “More Treasures from the American Film Archives” (which you will probably have to take out a second mortgage just to purchase).  Of course, there had to be a snag, and even Bowers posthumous legacy is at the mercy of 21st century marketing strategies that try to squeeze every penny of out collectors.   CHARLEY BOWERS

That complaint aside, Charley Bowers, The Rediscovery of an American Comic Geniusis a “desert island” collection

Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius Charley Bowers The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius.

SLAPHAPPY VOLUME 8: SURREAL COMEDY

The “SlapHappy Volume 8 Collection: Surreal Comedy” must be unreservedly recommended for making available  rare, hidden fragments from surreal cinema’s infancy.  It’s not everyday one gets to see J. Stewart Blackton’s 1908Thieving Hand which pre-dates the later, similar theme of a wayward, disembodied hand  found in films like The Beast with Five Fingers (which Buñuel worked on during his brief Hollywood stint).

%22Thieving Hand%22 1908

The Thieving Hand (1908)

Edwin S. Porter collections aren’t  exactly a dime a dozen either, so 1906′s Melies inspired Dream of a Rarebit Fiend,based off the famous Windsor McCay comic strip, is possibly the highlight here.  The sight of something akin to Linda Blaire’s bed engaged in a Dickens-like flight across a city skyscape is well worth the price.  Today, Fiend is possibly the most interesting of Porter’s vast but not entirely distinguishable output, certainly  much more so than some of the historically better known films, such as  Life of an American Fireman.

The team of Richard M. Roberts, Larry Stefan and Paul Lisy have certainly done thorough research and a number of delightfully rare oddities are compiled here;  Eddie Lyon’s 1923 Hot Foot with the short-lived Mack Sennett veteran; Bobby Dunn, Ferdinand Zecca’s 1910 Slippery Jim , Edward F. Cline’s 1925 Dangerous Curves Behind, and the 1948 Fresh Lobster with Billie Bletcher.

Still, despite the glimpses of rare treasures here, SlapHappy Volume 8 falls short of being the ideal collection.  These are indeed mere glimpses, clips culled from the films, and since most of these are shorts, presenting these films in their entirety could have been easily accomplished and would have been much more desirable.

The SlapHappy producers, in following the formulaic recipe of their series, short-changed the potential of what could have been their most valuable volume.

Stills from films like Keaton’s The Playhouse are utilized, but there no actual clips. Instead, excerpts from lesser, more obvious, on the surface examples of Keaton’s ventures into surrealism are shown (Buster running into dangling skeletons, etc) simply because these are more obvious; a bit like Salvador Dali being held up as the quintessential persona over considerably more substantial surrealists such as Max Ernst and Paul Klee.

The producers’ goal, as Sam Charles’  narration indicates, is focused on early surreal comedy–as opposed to early surrealism–but even here, it falls short of being the reference volume.  An extraordinary amount of time is given to the weaker Fresh Lobster, when much more time could have been devoted to Zecca’s far more compelling Slippery Jim(Zecca was an editor for Melies, and it shows), the films of Charley Bowers, or numerous, much more substantial examples of early surreal comedy (Chaplin’s surreal heavenly dream sequence from The Kid, Keaton’s The Navigator, The Frozen North, Sherlock Jr, or Beckett’s  Film are just a few, better known examples).

Surreal Comedy is an all too brief entry, abbreviated to make room for the Getting the Girl and Chaplin bonuses, both of which contain footage found elsewhere. Still, Volume 8 is a valuable but unimaginative introduction to the art of early surreal comedy that ultimately falls short of being the priceless collection it could have been.

IAN PYPER’S ART OF RELENTLESS COMMUNICATION

A majority of the interviews/articles/reviews re: Ian Pyper make a point to state that Mr. Pyper is a tad on the laconic side. I have been in communiqué with the artist on numerous occasions and have never found him wanting for dialogue. No, he doesn’t ramble as much as I do, but then why does he need to? Ian Pyper’s  quite prolific art speaks for him and that art is one of relentless communication.

In this , Ian is a kindred spirit in the realm of outsider art, brut , visionary ,  fringe , primitive, or whatever term one wishes to apply in the those (often) tiresome blanks.  Regardless of what term one applies, Ian Pyper simply has a voice all his own.

Ian and other unconventional artists have been taking the art world by storm over the last few years and there is a reason for that.   The academic art school route has gone stale, becoming decorative and/or hopelessly commercial, appeasing to either dishonest aesthetics or consumerism.  Ian, and like-minded artists have defiantly grinded the  “steamroller blues”, utilizing their unique voices:  gallery themes, and marketing strategies be damned.

Ian Pyper’s work is certainly open to various interpretations. For me, his work bespeaks a visual world that blows in from the winds of the most ancient of ancients, and flows outward to a delightfully strange, ambiguous , music-filled future. Pyper world is one that is kin to the Italian Futurists , the surreal beatniks, post-serial music, and two-fisted, post-modern spirituality. Clearly, this is an intensely personal vision which, wisely, Ian does not spell out for the viewer , but his  world-view optimism seeps through all his idiosyncratic images of aliens, cave creatures, Grand Inquisitors, absurd two-headed saints, crucifixions, icons, God angels,  God’s eye, God’s hand, primitive masks, death heads, pyramids, fish, birds, scorpions, the wild west, tanks, apocalyptic aeroplanes, helicopters, spaceships, scenes of intergalactic wars, totem poles, and the Holy Trinity as you never saw it depicted in church.

I can’t quite put my finger on Ian Pyper , and I prefer it that way. However, I did notice that before I had sat down to write this,  I had just revisited Palazzeschi’s “Man of Smoke”, and Morton Subotnick’s electronic (and fun) bleepy composition,  “Silvery Apples of the Moon.” Initially, it was a subliminal connection, but after revisiting Ian’s work I realized I had just left these similar worlds before crossing into his. It was a good, familiar feeling.

ALLISM: PLUNGING INTO THE ABYSS OF JAN SCOTT BOYER

A stroll down East 10th Street  in the 1990s was never a casual experience. Arrests, drug deals done in public view, hookers, tattoo parlors and random gunshots were the norm. In the center of all this was a small hidden art gallery called “Utrillo’s Art.”

In the window  of Utrillo’s Art one frequently saw small, pop art paintings of kitty cats, or a friendly landscape, which did not prepare you at all for what you found inside and that was usually the many works of Jan Scott Boyer. Boyer himself was a frequent patron of the gallery. He rarely spoke and one could not help notice the pistol attached to his belt. His hand never strayed far from his gun. Greg Brown, the owner of that late gallery, only explained that Boyer was hyper sensitive, so I didn’t inquire, but oh, did I absorb Boyer’s work. Boyer, like his work, is enigmatic, but it is a loud sort of mysteriousness which you are forced to respect.

Boyer refers to his work as “Allism.” I’m not sure what that means, but I am sure that the description seems apt since his imagery seems to include just about everything, including the kitchen sink. Boyer’s earlier works were often sexually graphic. That quality has long since disappeared, but his work is no less provocative and no less hypnotic.

Among the earlier works is the epic “Circus of the Imagination” with literally thousands of figures crammed into what could only be described as something akin to a Hieronymus Bosch or Ken Russell carnival.  “Allism: The Next Wave” features rocketing giant penises amidst a disturbingly surreal universe. In that canvas and in canvases such as “Days in Taranta”, ‘Allism Pyramid”, ‘Allism in Toyland”, and “Worlds of Allism” unspeakable acts of torture  and sexual humiliations are being perpetrated upon  exposed women. These works are as unsettling as stumbling upon one of the many second and third century Gnostic Apocalypses. Understandably, damn few women responded to Boyer’s works from that period.

Later, Boyer’s works became increasingly obsessed with his unique shapes and compositions, taking him into the realms of energized landscapes, such as ‘Superstructure” and “Skyline.” Voodoo masks were a frequently repeated them, and later Boyer ventured into complete abstraction in canvases titled  “Infinite Energy Array” and “Shattered.”

* I came across a 1995 treasure: a Nuvo article on Jan Scott Boyer, that I thought couldn’t be more perfect. It was written by art critic Sharon Calhoon.

“ARTIST JAN SCOTT BOYER has been writing to me for about 18 months.
Sometimes it’s once a week, sometimes once a month. All the letters
are the same- usually on legal paper, cursive at the beginning,
jabbingly printed at the end, highlighted with red underline marks
and words running in every direction.
They all read the same. Here’s part of his March 12,1995 letter-
which is much like the others:
IMPORTANT YOU READ.
Am SERIOUS
Dear Miss Calhoon
I have solidified STRONG SUPPORT for my ALLISM ART on Mass Ave,
Galleries, I am getting a following downtown, my ALLISM ART is being
collected already, now I am about to expand to another gallery, one
perhaps two are ready to give me a serious ALLISM Show. I plan a show
in 95 in Indianapolis, perhaps Chicago, I will go to Chicago next,
will expand to Broadripple too.
ALLISM is the HOTTEST art in Indy.I will simply let them see the
magnetic art power, will ignite INSTANT momentum, chain reaction,
make instant MOST visible. ALLISM IS MY CUBISM, only MORE powerful.
BOTTOM LINE it is SERIOUS ART ABSOLUTELY…REVOLUTIONARY ART. BEYOND
ROCK IS ALLISM NEXT WAVE most powerful cutting edge thing going on
in art in Indy, AMERICA, if you are a SERIOUS PROFESSIONAL AT ALL
come to my studio bring MR. Ullmann.
My art is BODACIOUS but PURE FREE LIMITLESS I EXPLORE ILLUMINATE
Black hole of ART UNIVERSE. Dare to go beyond.
Jan Scott Boyer Creator of Allism.

After years of this kind of relentless communication with just about
everyone remotely connected with art, Boyer is finally being
exhibited at the Denoument Gallery. Though Boyer is actually a damn-
fine painter, his imagery couldn’t be more disturbing.
It is obsessive sexual imagery where nude and wicked women are
exposed and posed in the most degrading manner. They are dismembered.
Devilish heads emerge from their abdomens while the monster’s horns
spear the evil goddess’s huge breasts. Every manner of body fluid is
squirting out of every imaginable and unimaginable site. Boyer
totally exposes these women’s labium and rectums. Multiple large
penises of many colors penetrate the women. Long tongues snake toward
the orifices. Fecal matter oozes forth.
In some of the smaller canvases Boyer focuses on a singular evil
queen. In larger works there is a network of such women, who exist in
corners of the futuristic Allism metropolis. In these scenes, BLADE
RUNNER landscape meets the psycho, carnivorous sexual pervert.
Most critics, gallery owners and media persons have believed if they
ignored Boyer, he would go away. There has been a universal attitude
of ‘not encouraging’ him. Despite his treatment, Boyer has
determination.
Steven Stoller, Denoument Gallery’s owner, said he gave Boyer the
exhibit because the artist has followed his personal vision for
seven years, regardless of the media and art community’s inattention.
Stoller considers Boyer an outsider artist and he may be right.
In the largest definition of the term, outsider art is created by a
self taught artist who works tirelessly in a vernacular of his own
invention. He is not influenced by market or fad. Where Boyer
separates himself from true outsider artists, though, is in his
obsession to gain attention for his work.
Some pretty pushy artists have sent mail my way, but none come close
to Boyer. His pestering  borders on harassment .Although I’d seen a
piece or two of Boyer’s art over the last two years, I went to his
opening because you never know where genius lurks. There IS something
lurking in Boyer and his work, and it’s pretty creepy. At the
opening Boyer told me that if I wrote about him, he wouldn’t bother
me again-and I have witnesses.”

Jan Scott Boyer’s work can be seen and purchased at the Artistic Spirit Gallery website, which is below, along with that site’s bio on Boyer.

Allism in Toyland

http://www.artisticspiritgallery.com/

http://www.artisticspiritgallery.com/gallery/detail.php?inventory_id=909&artist_id=25

http://www.artisticspiritgallery.com/gallery/list.php?artist_id=58&subject_id=&submit.x=34&submit.y=11

Artistic Spirit Bio:

Jan Scott Boyer was born in Indiana in 1941. He attended area Catholic schools but suffered from a learning disability and never attended high school. He began painting as a teenager and did both landscapes and abstracts. He traveled and sold his canvases all over the Midwest but was overcome by stress and placed on disability. His career has been a study of contrasts. He has been a three time prize winner at the Hoosier Salon. In 1989, he created “Allism,” an abstract motif that depicted horrendous scenes of torture. He has been placed under scrutiny because of a letter writing campaign to area art professionals but he has also been featured in local and national outsider art shows. The content of his work continues to evolve, as does his process. An overview of his paintings of the last fifteen years or so will show the deliberate changes he has made. The transition is never sudden but the viewer can see old merging with new forms until he has adapted to his latest subject matter and painting techniques. He will spend weeks completing details on his canvases, some containing hundreds of figures, buildings, or objects from his very creative imagination.

BE HAPPY GODDAMMIT: THE ART OF BILL ROSS

Ohio artist Bill Ross does not subscribe to the “aesthetics only” propaganda of the avant-garde.  As an art student in the 1980s, Ross was stubborn in regards to his work. Complete abstract expressionism was the accepted norm, but Ross’ work plunged the viewer into an idiosyncratic world of slapstick surrealism. Many reviewers have commented on Ross’ works and some of the usual descriptions are “candy colored”, “playful”, and “decorative.” While Ross’ work is all that, there is also an undeniable and inherent element of danger underneath a deceptively bright colored surface. That danger is a true trait of surrealism.

In the 21st century, abstract expressionism has long lost its edge. It has become academic and hopelessly safe, feeling quite at home in the local LS Ayres office, yet it’s elder brother, Surrealism, has lost none of its edge. One will not find the likes of a Hans Bellmer or Man Ray hanging on bank walls, even to this day. While New York gallery shows of avant-garde icons were  patronized by the champagne sipping elite, surrealists Luis Bunuel  and Andre Breton were pistol whipping offended patrons at the premiere of George Antheil’s “Ballet Mecanique.”

While I have yet to see patrons get beaten up at a Bill Ross opening, his most recent showing  at the 1305 Gallery in Cincinnati was an arch typical atmosphere with Ross inhaling a countless number of martinis and engaging in giggling, slurred kitchen gossip about an acquainted patron’s  propensity for group sex and, believe me, that elicited a sigh of relief in that Ross has refused to polish away his edge. Speaking only for myself, I would much rather engage in speculative talk about who may or may not engage in group sex over the aesthetics of painting on any given day, and even more so at a gallery opening.

Then, there is the work itself. In all of Ross’ work there is an underlining quality of  twitchy desperation injected into this euphoric weirdness. Ross’  work is a bit like those early 20th century dance marathons that always began in the happy happy joy joy  mode and inevitably ended in a perverse, frenzied, and  torturous dance til you literally drop dead. To be certain, Ross’ work celebrates life, but he doesn’t encourage that, he demands it.  Ross work reminds me of a Roselyn Bakery Cake symbolically come to life as dictator of the land. With its four inch think icing, you know it’s going to go down a delight that will  eventually kill you with corroded arteries and the like, but, by God, it demands that you eat it and enjoy it, consequences be damned. Of course, one can substitute Roselyn Baker Cakes with any happy vice, which, in my case, happens to be coffee by the pot with a pack of Marlboro Lights.

My own personal favorite of Ross’ works is a canvas depicting his favorite theme of a blue monkey, which , here, feeds a banana to a bed-ridden skeleton.  The disturbing, recurring theme of decapitated deer betray Ross’ origin of Indiana white trash, which he bear hugs with undying gratitude for having helped formed his freak flag. It is a flag he continues to fly high.

Ross and his militia  of blue monkeys, octopi, possums,  grizzly bears, kittens, and pancakes are a lot like those guilty pleasure vices. His art tastes damn fine and, even if it does kill you, at least you’ll die in a state of dizzied pleasure, not that you have any say so in the matter anyway.

* This is a first in a planned series of art reviews. Future reviews will include the art of Thunder-Sky artist Antonio Adams, along with UK Artist Ian Pyper, Michigan artist Mike Wrathell and Indiana artist Jan Scott Boyer.