The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Floraby Jim Flora, Irwin Chusid (Editor), Barbara Economon (Editor)
Jim Flora (1914-1998), long admired for boisterous 1940s and '50s record cover illustrations and a
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 maniacaleyeball jazz that bops and bounces in unfathomable meters.
- Fantagraphics Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 9.90(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.50(d)
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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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