Ron Cobb, 1937–2020

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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1959.

The death of American illustrator/cartoonist/designer Ron Cobb was announced yesterday. All the obituaries are concentrating on the designs he produced for Hollywood feature films so here’s an alternative view of a long and varied career.

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After Bathing At Baxter’s (1967) by Jefferson Airplane.

Cobb’s first album cover is his most famous, and probably his most familiar work outside his film designs, but there were a few more, some of which may be seen below. The San-Francisco-house-as-aircraft always reminds me of the car/plane hybrid piloted by Professor Pat Pending in the Wacky Races cartoons.

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Some Of Our Best Friends Are (1968) by Various Artists.

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Ecology symbol, October 1969.

Cobb’s copyright-free design for an ecology symbol was published in the Los Angeles Free Press in November, 1969. The “Freep” also ran Cobb’s cartoons, some of which were later collected in The Cobb Book (1975). Satire has a tendency to date very quickly but many of Cobb’s barbs are still relevant today.

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Undated cartoon.

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Doctor Druid’s Haunted Seance (1973).

Continue reading “Ron Cobb, 1937–2020”

HR Giger’s Passagen

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HR Giger’s art books were always very thorough in detailing all the media manifestations of the artist’s work, including film and television appearances. For years this presented tantalising questions, especially regarding the lengthy pre-Alien documentaries that were listed there: what were these films, and when would we get to see them? Giger’s Necronomicon (1976) did finally appear on YouTube a few years ago, and now here’s the second of the pair thanks to an upload of what appears to be a Japanese laserdisc.

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Passagen was made in 1972 by Giger’s friend Fredi M. Murer, their third film collaboration after Heimkiller and High (1967) and Swiss Made 2069 (1968). The latter (which Giger co-directed) is still frustratingly absent from the web, and similarly tantalising for being a 45-minute piece of underground science fiction which features Giger’s first production designs for cinema. Passagen was less ambitious, a 50-minute documentary about Giger’s work made for the German TV station, WDR. As a documentary it functions as a companion to Giger’s Necronomicon, while both films complement the subsequent art books, especially Giger’s Necronomicon (the book) which features many of the paintings seen in the films, together with anecdotes about their origins and inspiration. One of these anecdotes, about the nightmares induced in the young Hans Rudi by a stairway in the hotel next door to the Giger family home, is recounted in Passagen alongside the vertiginous drawings the nightmares inspired. It’s impossible to consider this piece of child psychology, and to watch the artist walking up and down stairs and stepladders, without recalling that Giger died after falling down a flight of stairs in 2014.

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Giger’s Necronomicon is the more interesting of the two documentaries, especially now that the life and work is so well known; the art is taken more for granted, and we also get to see Giger at work on one of his big airbrush paintings. Passagen spends much of its time attempting to contextualise Giger’s drawings and paintings for an unwitting television audience, so a great deal of the running time is given over to newsreel footage of wars, riots, terrorism, atomic explosions and so on. A geneticist discusses the effects of atomic mutation while Giger’s earliest series of pictures, Atomkinder, is shown; psychoanalysts examine his paintings from a psychosexual angle.

Of more interest for Giger aficionados is the presence of his partner at the time, Li Tobler, the subject of several memorable portraits from this period. Among the working shots, the best shows Giger improvising a drawing with the same speed as Philippe Druillet in the Ô Sidarta film. Giger only started using an airbrush in 1972 so most of the works seen here are either early drawings or the paintings in the Passagen and Alptraum series, the style and colouring of which is much closer to the art world of 1972 than anything which would follow. For me the greatest revelation comes early on when Giger picks out a record to play while he’s working. The disc he chooses is just identifiable as Universal Consciousness by Alice Coltrane, an album which had been released the year before. (This isn’t the music heard on the soundtrack, however.) Alice Coltrane’s brand of ecstatic, pan-religious jazz would seem remote from Giger’s own universe but the choice isn’t so surprising if you know that he’d been a jazz enthusiast since the 1950s; in The Book of Alien (1979) his list of influences includes HP Lovecraft, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

As is evident from the screen grabs, the film is hard-coded throughout with Japanese subtitles. Unlike Giger’s Necronomicon there’s no English overdub either, the soundtrack is in German throughout. I can’t complain when I’ve been waiting so long to be able to see this at all. For those who watched the later film divided into four YouTube clips there’s now a complete version (also Japanese but with English overdub) here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heimkiller and High
The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night
Hans by Sibylle
HR Giger album covers
Giger’s Necronomicon
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
The monstrous tome

Weekend links 302

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Nymphs of Bacchus by Lozzy Bones.

• “[Jonathan Meades] has a horror of explanation and an even greater one of manifestos, the artless moron’s medium of choice.” The writer turns artist with an “exhibition of Treyfs and Artknacks” at Londonewscastle.

Robert Aickman: Author of Strange Tales is a 50-minute introduction to the writer and his works by RB Russell and Rosalie Parker.

A second volume of  Cosmic Machine: A Voyage Through French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde will be landing in May.

Amelia Mangan talks to Kattomic Energy about her horror fiction, and mentions these pages in passing. (Thanks!)

• The Interpretation of Screams: AS Hamrah on David Lynch: The Man from Another Place by Dennis Lim.

• “People thought we were on drugs – and we were!” Minimalist musician Tony Conrad interviewed.

• Two 1975 Buchla concerts by Suzanne Ciani are released for the first time by Finders Keepers.

• Inspiration from above and below: The strange world of… Sunn O))).

• At Dangerous Minds: HR Giger’s ads for the Pioneer Corporation.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: New Queer Cinema (1985–1998).

Graphic Stamps, a history by Iain Follett and Blair Thomson.

Ramsey Campbell’s “Thirteen Novels on the Edge of Horror”.

• The occult artwork of David Chaim Smith.

Easter Woman (1980) by The Residents | Easter Parade (1984) by The Blue Nile | Easterfaust (2014) by The Cosmic Dead

The King in Green

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Hastur (1999) by John Coulthart.

Going through some of my old Lovecraft art this week it occurred to me that this drawing hadn’t been made public in its original colour form. Hastur appears as a murkier black-and-white illustration in the Great Old Ones series I produced in collaboration with Alan Moore for The Haunter of the Dark. The drawing was one of several improvised pieces made using coloured pencils on tinted paper. Some people may regard this and similar works as “Gigeresque” but I only apply that label to close imitations of HR Giger’s biomechanical style. This type of improvised drawing or painting predates Giger—Max Ernst’s decalcomania paintings being familiar examples—and you see similar fields of organic or mineral forms in the work of other Surrealist or Fantastic artists. If you have some ability with a pencil or paintbrush it’s relatively easy to produce a lot of this kind of work; the challenge is to do something more than create a mass of writhing abstraction.

Previously on { feuilleton }
In the Key of Yellow
Intertextuality
Lovecraft’s Monsters
The Court of the Dragon
The King in Yellow

Weekend links 260

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Bachelor with “demons” (Sleezy) [sic] (2015) by Elijah Burgher. One of a new series of artworks by Burgher showing at Zieher Smith & Horton, NYC.

• The week in HR Giger: Belinda Sallin on her documentary, Dark Star: HR Giger’s World; Ron Kretsch on the unseen cinema of HR Giger; Matthew Cheney thinks the Gigeresque has become too familiar. I can see his point but originality is always in short supply; asking for something new means setting yourself up for a long wait.

Pwdre ser, or Star jelly, is “a pale, foul-smelling jelly traditionally associated with meteorite falls”. The Rot of the Stars at the ICA, London, is an audio-visual art collaboration between Jo Fisher and Mark Pilkington dealing with the mysterious substance.

• Mixes of the week: A Tri Angle Records birthday DJ set by Björk; OreCast 196 mix by Ilius; Secret Thirteen Mix 153 by M!R!M.

To assume that a given group of people would be similar because of birthdate, Ryder thought, was to risk committing a fallacy. “The burden of proof is on those who insist that the cohort acquires the organised characteristics of some kind of temporal community,” he wrote. “This may be a fruitful hypothesis in the study of small groups of coevals in artistic or political movements but it scarcely applies to more than a small minority of the cohort in a mass society.”

Generational thinking is a bogus way to understand the world says Rebecca Onion

The plan for an airport above the streets of Manhattan. Related: Charles Glover‘s similar plan for London.

Errol Morris on how typography shapes our perception of truth.

Michael Moorcock enjoyed The Vorrh, a novel by Brian Catling.

Clive Barker on almost dying, hustling, and killing Pinhead.

• A new Penguin Books website for Angela Carter.

• Callum James on artist Philip Core.

A Beginner’s Guide to King Tubby

King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976) by Augustus Pablo | Star Cannibal (1982) by Hawkwind | Sleazy (1983) by Jah Wobble, The Edge, Holger Czukay