The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora

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Overview

A third collection of amusing nightmares from the demonic wand of Jim Flora: art and artifacts spanning Flora's career, including more from his Columbia Records days, children's book roughs and outtakes, rarely seen cartoon-science illustrations and more.
Jim Flora (1914­-1998), long admired for boisterous 1940s and '50s record cover illustrations and a later series of best-selling children's books, has been rediscovered in recent years as an alchemist of bizarre and politely ...

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Overview

A third collection of amusing nightmares from the demonic wand of Jim Flora: art and artifacts spanning Flora's career, including more from his Columbia Records days, children's book roughs and outtakes, rarely seen cartoon-science illustrations and more.
Jim Flora (1914­-1998), long admired for boisterous 1940s and '50s record cover illustrations and a later series of best-selling children's books, has been rediscovered in recent years as an alchemist of bizarre and politely disturbing imagery. The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora burnishes the reputation of one of the great overlooked paintbox fantasists of the twentieth century.
Like its two predecessors (The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora and The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora), this anthology celebrates a visionary whose work is steeped in vari-hued paradox. Flora's figures are fun while threatening; playful yet dangerous; humorous but deadly. His helter-skelter arabesques are clustered with strangely contorted critters of no identifiable species, juxtaposed amid toothpick towers and trombones twisted into stevedore knots. Down his streets lurch demonic mutants sporting fried-egg eyes, dagger noses, and bonus limbs. Yet, despite the raucous energy projected in these hyperactive mosaics, a typical Flora freak circus often projects harmony and balance — an ordered chaos.
Like the first two volumes of Floriana, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora features paintings, drawings, and sketches from the 1940s through the 1990s — many never previously published or exhibited; more artifacts from the artist's 1940s tenure in the Columbia Records art department; and vintage newspaper and magazine illustrations.
This collection also heralds the first publication of an early, abandoned book for youngsters, "The X-Ray Eye of Wallingford Hume," which Flora drafted in 1943. Equally fascinating are original roughs, overlays, and concept images for his 1950s and '60s published kid-lit. In a curious inversion from art to objet d'art, these partial illustrations — intended to be layered for a printer's composite — are impressive, in their curious minimalism, as stand-alone masterpieces.
A gallery of 1940s pen and pencil sketches invokes a catacomb of nightmarish apparitions and inscrutable petroglyphs. Sweetly Diabolic also collects for the first time between covers a sideshow of science widgetry from a short-lived, now-obscure mid-1950s monthly, Research & Engineering, for which Flora served as art director. Chronicles of Flora's career, personal vignettes, and mementos from the family archives augment the images.
Although a lot of his work appears cartoonish, Flora didn't draw comics. He always projected a veneer of sophistication that elevated his images to the level of fine art, even when grinding out topical illustrations for newsstand weeklies. Flora deftly merged the well mannered with the maniacal—eyeball jazz that bops and bounces in unfathomable meters.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
“For this generation of artists and illustrators, Jim Flora is sort of an unknown creative granddaddy. Flora's designs are magically simple distillations of Cubism, Surrealism and cartoon madness, with playful figures and instruments floating in planes of color.”
Mark Frauenfelder - Boing Boing
“Jim Flora’s artwork is ultraviolet radiation in tempera and ink—it crackles with such energy, it practically sizzles ozone…This anthology celebrates a visionary whose work is steeped in vari-hued paradox…Yet, despite the raucous energy projected in these hyperactive mosaics, a typical Flora freak circus often projects harmony and balance—an ordered chaos.”
Joe Bendel - J. B. Spins
“Baroque and subversive.”
William Wegman
“Picasso, Matisse, Steinberg, my friend Charles — they all stole from Jim Flora, who was both ahead of his time and before his time.”
Drew Friedman
“The first Jim Flora collection was a revelation and a long-overdue tribute to the twisted, bizarre, joyous genius of an artist who was so damn ahead of his time. The second book was equally delightful. And now...a third!! It's too much, my head is exploding!”
Joe Bendel - J.B. Spins
“Chusid and Economon once again prove to be wise stewards of the Flora archives. Sweetly Diabolic reveals many largely unknown aspects of his work, but also fruitfully revisits his classic Columbia-era work. Thanks to the quality of the reproductions and design of the book itself, the vitality of Flora's art comes through on each page. An effective introduction to Flora's art and a satisfying crowd-pleaser for his established fans, Diabolic is another richly entertaining treasury of Flora's 'baroque and subversive' art.'”
Boing Boing
Jim Flora’s artwork is ultraviolet radiation in tempera and ink—it crackles with such energy, it practically sizzles ozone…This anthology celebrates a visionary whose work is steeped in vari-hued paradox…Yet, despite the raucous energy projected in these hyperactive mosaics, a typical Flora freak circus often projects harmony and balance—an ordered chaos.— Mark Frauenfelder
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606991596
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
  • Publication date: 8/18/2009
  • Pages: 179
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Flora was born in 1914 in Ohio and passed away in 1998 in Connecticut.

Irwin Chusid, based in Hoboken, NJ, is a journalist, music historian, radio personality and self-described “landmark preservationist.” Since 1975, Chusid has been a DJ on free-form radio station WFMU in New Jersey. He is the author of Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music. He has produced landmark reissues of the music of composer/bandleader/electronic music pioneer
Raymond Scott, Space Age Pop avatar Esquivel, the Langley Schools Music
Project, and has salvaged the careers of now-celebrated icons like Jim Flora.

Barbara Economon is a digital media specialist at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and a former radio host on KFAI. She provides all image restoration for the Flora collections and produces fine art prints of selected works.

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