Controversy has never been far from the musician known as Marilyn Manson, and his admission that he started his painting career by selling works to drug dealers comes as no surprise. Born in Ohio in 1969, he combined the names of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson to create his stage name. He first dabbled with watercolour in 1999, creating five-minute concept pieces. His watercolours are morbid, slightly disturbing and highly emotive pieces that in many cases seem to be influenced by Francis Bacon’s paintings, with a sense of dementia running through the works. By 2002 his first show, The Golden Age of Grotesque, was held at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions centre. Critics initially said his work would never be taken seriously – likening it to psychiatric patient therapy works – although over the years it has been highly exhibited on an international scale.
In 2005 Manson created his own art movement, calling it Celebritarian Corporation with a slogan of: “We will sell our shadow to those who stand within it.” He subsequently opened his own gallery in Los Angeles called Celebritarian Corporation Gallery of Fine Art, where he has since exhibited his works. Other notable exhibits include his show at Space 39 Modern and Contemporary in Florida in 2007, a collaborative show with David Lynch called Genealogies of pain at Vienna’s Kunsthalle in 2010, featuring a series of 20 works, and The path of Misery in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico in 2011. His unique style is clearly recognisable, and it has been noted that the works not only display an unexpected sensitivity, but also a highly instinctive eye when it comes to colour and composition.
The musican, actress and now contemporary artist, Courtney Love, exhibited her first major show last year at Fred Torres Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea. Known for her controversial film roles (Sid and Nancy, 1986; The people vs. Larry flynt, 1996; Caligula, 2005), and her band Hole, which she formed in 1989, she was named the “Queen of Rock” by Rolling Stone and recently has branched out from film and music to fashion, writing and art. Born in 1964, she studied fine art at the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1980s, although previously had never formally exhibited her work. Her exhibition, And She’s Not Even Pretty, featured more than 45 drawings and paintings in ink, colour pencil, pastel and watercolour. Many of the drawings looked like self-portraits, with bright pastel hues in coloured pencil, pastel and watercolour, and with excerpts of poetry, lyrics and other writings juxtaposed against the fragile, highly emotional imagery. Love cited the works as being an inward look at her relationships, as well as a reflection of the social interactions of women. The pieces often present a highly feminist, personal point of reference. Subjects of the works include depictions of a dead Sarah Bernhardt, inspired by the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, and tributes to her girl crushes, including Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as “about being blonde”. Many of the pieces in the show were highly confessional in nature. Standing out against the works were a few rather aggressive pieces, including one called “I’m Dead” depicting a nude blonde with legs spread, and a John Galliano white dress fixed to the wall scrawled in lipstick the words “NOT MY CUNT ON MY DIME MISTER”, which Love says was designed for a marriage that never took place. The show presented a window into another side of the artist, known more for her extreme antics and outspoken personality than her fragility. She currently lives and works in New York City.
The Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe-awarded Talking Heads front man David Byrne has, for many years, also experimented with a wide variety of mediums, including drawing, sculpture, photography, filmmaking and most notably installation artwork. He is represented as an artist by the prestigious Pace Gallery in New York. A student of the Rhode Island School of Design (’70-’71) and Maryland Institute College of Art (’71-’72), he had a strong foundation in the arts before he became known for his music. His artistic tendencies lend themselves to conceptual works that are often in the public arena; statement pieces that could be mistaken for ordinary objects or part of urban culture at large. He often focuses his work on objects of everyday life – elevating them into works of art, thus finding the “sacred in the profane”. Since the 1990s, he has exhibited widely. He has also created numerous public art installations in urban centres around the world – many of them anonymously.
His public art installations have included billboards in Belfast, subway posters in Stockholm, lightboxes in the streets of San Francisco and bike racks in New York City. He has published many conceptual books which are artworks in their own right, including Strange Ritual (Chronicle Press, 1995) which mixed text and image in a notebook-type format, your Action World (1998-1999), The New Sins / Los Nuevos Pecados, which was created for the Valencia Biennial and looks like a bible. Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (Steidl/Pace MacGill, 2003) contains a DVD of five PowerPoint presentations set to music, and Arboretum is a sketchbook of his tree drawings. In 2010 he exhibited at The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Moral Dilemmas and Inside Out, Reykjavík, Iceland, and the David Byrne Art Exhibition at VACANT by NO IDEA, Tokyo, Japan.
Kim Gordon, the multi-talented musician of Sonic Youth fame, has steadily throughout her career maintained a strong tie to the visual arts. A 1977 graduate of the Otis College of Art and Design, she wrote for Artforum Magazine throughout the ’80s and, aside from her own work as an artist, also curates exhibitions. She published several books chronicling her artwork, including Kim Gordon Chronicles: Vol. 1 (2005) and Kim Gordon Chronicles: Vol. 2 (2006) as well as Performing/Guzzling: Kim Gordon, published in 2010 by Rizzoli. Her paintings, drawings and watercolours have been exhibited in various galleries around the world, and she is also noted for her more conceptual installations. She had a solo exhibition titled Kim’s Bedroom at MU in the Netherlands, featuring drawing and paintings along with live music, and a limited edition book of the show. She has also done quite a few collaborative projects, notably with artist Jutta Koether, including Club In The Shadow at Kenny Schachter’s Contemporary Gallery in NY.
Her work varies in subject from photographic self-portraits, and fluid watercolours to dramatic black scrawlings on white canvas. Her exhibition titled The Noise Paintings featured a series of canvases with dripping catch phrases in black, presented as a sort of conceptual graffiti. The series was based on the names of noise bands such as 16 Bitch Pile-Up, Wet Hair, Sudden Oak, Noise Nomads and Pussy Galore. and is an exploration that creates “a collision of the verbal and the visual.”
She has been quoted as saying she is more disciplined in the visual arts than in music, which is a more instinctive and “primitive” part of her artistic identity. “I was definitely first interested in art. I always wanted to be an artist, since I was like five or something. I was really into Michelangelo. I wanted to be a sculptor.”
The legendary musician Bob Dylan, whose musical repertoire spans over five decades, is also a highly exhibited artist, with a focus on acrylics on canvas as well as drawings and silkscreens. He has published several books of his works, and most recently had several controversial solo shows at the Gagosian Gallery in New York.
In 1994 Random House published Drawn Blank, a book on Dylan’s drawings and sketches. Many years later, in 2007, a more fully realised series of the works – including 200 watercolour and gouache paintings, titled The Drawn Blank Series, took place at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz in Germany. In 2010 he exhibited a series of 40 large-scale acrylic paintings at the National Gallery of Denmark, titled The Brazil Series.
In September 2011 he opened his first major solo show at the celebrated Gagosian Gallery. The exhibition was highly scrutinised for featuring seemingly derivative works. Titled The Asia Series, many critics attacked him for exhibiting what were apparently painted renditions of Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs. The paintings were presented as “visual reflections” of his travels in Japan, China, Vietnam and South Korea. The press release stated, “He often draws and paints while on tour, and his motifs bear corresponding impressions of different environments and people. A keen observer, Dylan is inspired by everyday phenomena in such a way that they appear fresh, new and mysterious.”
His credibility as an artist was again questioned after his most recent Gagosian opening, in November 2012. His series Revisionist Art featured large-scale silkscreens of faux magazine covers, with titles such as “Baby Talk Magazine: Strengthen Your Baby” and a Playboy cover featuring Sharon Stone. While some may question the integrity of his work, he is clearly a very prolific artist. He has been quoted as stating that he paints “mostly from real life.”
Rock star, performance artist, writer, muse and mime – David Bowie’s career has spanned multiple universes since he took off on his cosmic journey with the release of Space Oddity in 1969. His persona as Ziggy Stardust will carry on through this millennium as one of the most profound and recognisable of the last era. Less well known is his fondness for the paintbrush, and his extremely well developed compositions on canvas. Bowie, who was born David Robert Jones in 1947, was a student of art, music and design, including layout and typesetting before he became the legendary musician that we know today. His artwork crosses over from painting to sculpture, photography to printmaking and has been sold at auction and exhibited in galleries and museums across the globe. Some notable past exhibits include The National Portrait Gallery (2000), the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1997) and the Biennale di Firenze (1996). His works are part of the permanent Saatchi collection as well as numerous museums. He has been historically noted for his collaborative projects and has worked with a range of established contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst as well as students – such as his collaboration with three Royal College of Art graduates in 2000. His style ranges from self-portraits to African-inspired sculptural pieces and masks to highly conceptual macro photography and multimedia installations, such as his mixed-media constructions TV Christ, Saucer I, Cyberchromes and Sound Collage that was at the Florence Biennale in 1996.
Throughout the ’90s, he was regularly exhibiting his work in numerous international cities, although for the past ten years has been relatively quiet on the exhibit front – until now. The exhibition David Bowie Is at the V&A museum in London is set to be one of the most successful shows in the museum’s history. The museum was given unprecedented access to his personal archive in order to curate the show. It is “the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie – one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. David Bowie Is will explore the creative processes of Bowie as a musical innovator and cultural icon, tracing his shifting style and sustained reinvention across five decades.”
The exhibit explores in depth Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film. It features more than 300 items spanning six decades, including original costumes, artwork and handwritten lyrics. Costumes from his tours are displayed such as his Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, photography by Brian Duffy, album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell, as well as his own works. Sketches such as the one showing his designs for “Hunger City” from his Diamond Dogs tour in 1974 are being exhibited for the first time, as well as many unseen videos, storyboards and photographs by the artist. The extraordinary exhibit is open to the public until 11 August 2013.
Article by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine “Music” Issue 6