Monday, August 31, 2009

unfinished tableaus

Unfinished figures in tempera and pencil, photographed on sketchbook page. The undated work is probably from around 1960 because the contours resemble Big Evening, a tempera from that year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

cow chaos

Tempera overlay, The Day the Cow Sneezed, 1957, courtesy the Dr. Irvin Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota Children's Literature Research Center.

Monday, August 24, 2009

the old brawl game

The title and date of this 1960s commercial tempera illustration are unknown, as is the periodical for which it was assigned (possibly LIFE or LOOK magazine). The mise-en-scène depicts historic incidents and major league baseball players associated with Busch Stadium (a.k.a. Sportsman's Park), home of two St. Louis baseball teams: the luckless Browns (1902-53) and the perennially contending Cardinals (1920-66). The ballpark was replaced by Busch Memorial Stadium in 1966, an event which this illustration probably commemorates. (The Browns franchise moved east in 1954 to become the Baltimore Orioles.)

The detail above represents about one-third of the full 16-1/4" x 16-3/4" work, which is stored in the Flora family archives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

piano variations

A draft and a refinement of a common theme. This barrelhouse piano player was roughly rendered for a series of demo booklets the Cincinnati-based Flora crafted in 1941 as a job pitch:

"Columbia Records was reissuing old jazz records without much fanfare," the artist (and jazz aficionado) later wrote. "I had the temerity to make these small booklets to try to point out the error of their ways." His temerity paid off. In early 1942 Flora was hired by Columbia's art department, and he relocated to Connecticut with his wife Jane. Within a year, the record label promoted him to Art Director.

The refined version was a woodcut, untitled and undated:

The mannequin-like patrons are gone, but the mug on the piano lid abides. The original wood block for this work has not been located. The print belongs to the University of Virginia Library Special Collections as part of a quartet of impressions in a folio entitled James Flora Wood Cuts. The three other works in the folio exist in the Flora family collection and date from 1940-41.

The top image was reproduced along with the demo booklets in The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora; the bottom work was reproduced in our just-published The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Do you know your FGHIJKLs?

Get to know them — Flora-style! Individual letters culled from various works by the funky font master himself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ding Dong Daddy

Pen & ink sketch, early 1940s. The title likely derives from the song "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas," penned by Phil Baxter in the late 1920s. Dumas is a town in the northwest Texas Panhandle. The song was recorded by many country and jazz artists, including Louis Armstrong (in 1930), and was later a hit for singer-bandleader Phil Harris. Flora's take is typically idiosyncratic and perhaps references the titular "ding dong" in the bell-and-clapper motif of the figure's right leg. There's also evidence of some testicular bell-ringing.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Tympani Five

We've come to a belated acceptance, and in some cases respect, for Flora's late-life work. We still prefer the bizarre jaggedness of his 1940s and 1950s illustrations and paintings, but occasionally the old Jim peeks through the new. The Tympani Five (referring to Louis Jordan's fun-loving jump band of the 1940s) isn't a top-tier work, but the spirit of Jordan synergizes with the spirit of Flora in this 1988 pen & ink with tempera on paper (owned by a private collector).

What's wrong with this picture? For one, Jordan spelled his group's name "Tympany." For another, the band was usually marqueed as "Louis Jordan & The Tympany Five," implying six members; Flora depicts a quintet. Moreover, "Five" was a name, not a number, because Jordan's outfit often included as many as nine players. But besides sharing a love of music, Flora and Jordan had mischievous natures, so we'll let facts take a holiday.

Although the 1980s were a tremendously productive period for Flora, this is only the second work from the decade we've posted. We're actually more fond of Flora's 1990s mojo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

arts & Kraft

In an art class called "Soft Sculpture" at the University of Washington (Seattle), students were instructed to transform a favorite painting into food sculpture. SunShine McWane adapted Flora's untitled 1950-51 tempera we casually refer to as "Gunfight on the Roof" (original work below). The resulting mixed-media delicacy, entitled "Cheese City," was completed in January 2009.

The materials—ingredients, actually—used by McWane include cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Colby, jalapeño jack), acrylic paint, plastic (GI Joe figures), one wire twist-tie, and a Gummi Bear. The work is currently in SunShine's apartment, at room temperature, preserved with spray fixative. Its lifespan is uncertain.

The original painting was reproduced in The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora and released as a limited edition fine art print in 2008.

Thanks to Jillian Sutton for introducing McWane to Flora's work and for alerting us to the cheesy replica.