DON VAN VLIET. BEATLE BONES N' SMOKIN STONES

PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS FROM THE LATE SEVENTIES AND EIGHTIES

5 SEPTEMBER - 24 OCTOBER 2015

By the time Captain Beefheart (*1941 Don Glen Van Vliet) ended his stage career in the mid 1980’s and opted for the seclusion of the Californian desert, he had become a world famous musician with a reputation for radical musical arrangements. The decision was a sobering move for an artist whose raw, powerful and sometimes atonal music was held in high esteem by critics and fellow musicians, but failed to establish itself in the commercial music industry.

Drawing was an activity that he started while he was still at school in Lancaster, California, and which he intensified in adolescence and continued as a musician. Within a few years of moving to the Mojave Desert he had produced a body of work whose originality is both surprising and unique. His pictures portray surreal desert beings reminiscent of his tortured lyrics. Demonic creatures attest to the artist’s animistic attachment to his environment. Initially, Van Vliet’s imagery has an intimate figurative quality which on the one hand contrasts starkly with the aloof abruptness of his music, but his pictures also betray many elements of organic abstraction. Don Van Vliet’s art relates intuitively to historical movements in art while eluding any attempt at categorization. The direct expressivity of the imagery is a moving witness to long-lost fears and desires.

“Grotesque grimaces and traces of animal and human anatomy appear in dislocation with other figurative elements. They seem to peer from cracks and edges of the composition, or appear as ambivalent forms that slip between figurative and abstract expression[...] The pictures are full of shadowy creatures that seem to drift in and out of existence.” (Wilfried Dickhoff, 1988)

Don Van Vliet’s work has been on show in various galleries since the early 1970’s with individual exhibitions in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1988), the Bielefelder Kunstverein (1993-94) and in the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art (1995).

Title: Beatle Bones n' Smokin Stones, Album: Strictly Personal (1968)