Guy Peellaert, The Michelangelo of Pop Art

Guy Peellaert, a major European Pop artist, died last week. The Brussels-born artist Guy Peellaert was a painter, illustrator, graphic artist and photographer, whose work has been exhibited around the world. He made his debut as a theatre decorator and as a comic strip artist and was one of the first artists to embrace the Pop Art movement that began in the late 1950s. Peellaert made no distinction between high art and low art. He approached the pop culture and mythology as a true fan. His style was influenced by comics, American Pop Art and psychedelic art. He painted using a very photo-realistic style and collage techniques. In 1974, Elle magazine called him the “the Michelangelo of Pop”.

“Tina Turner” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert was born in Brussels in 1934 into an aristocratic family. He left home at an early age, and for many years refused to have any contact with his father. As a teenager, he studied fine arts in the Belgian capital and found refuge in the music of Nat King Cole, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. He also devoured Amercian and British pop culture, film noir and pulp literature. Just as his example, the Britsih Pop artist Peter Blake, Peellaert hoarded and archived music magazines, books and pop memorabilia. He was one of the very first comic artists to process pop-art influences in his stories. His first comic strip, “Les Aventures de Jodelle”, was published in 1966. The psychedelic cartoon character Jodelle was inspired by he French popstar Sylvie Vartan. Peellart’s second comic strip heroine, “Pravda, La Survireuse”, made her debut in 1968 and was a brunette modelled on the chanteuse Françoise Hardy.

“Pravda & Coca-Cola”, limited edition silkprints by Guy Peellaert.

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, one of the proud owners of Peellaert’s art.

In the late Sixties, Peellaert moved to Paris, where he worked variously in advertising, set design for the casino and the Crazy Horse nightclub, film and television. He also published a couple of experimental books, “Carashi!”, which consisted of redesigned photos, and “Bye, bye, bye Baby, bye, bye’”, which used a hyper-realistic style.
Peellaert quickly became a popular chronicler of rock and roll. He created amazing tableaux featuring rock luminaries in paintings that captured their personae in a way that photos never could. His paintings tapped right into our subconscious fantasies of rock stars’ secret selves & lives and earned him international cult status.

“Jimi Hendrix” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert’s work became very visible in the 1970s, especially his book of rock star portraits “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. With its fantastical and iconic images of the giants of rock and roll, the book served as a record of rock’s golden years. In a series of 125 paintings, Peellaert painted his heroes in situations echoing their mythical status or playing on their most famous lyrics. “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. Published in 1974, the book had a huge impact when it was first published and went on to sell more than one million copies worldwide and established Peellaert as a major international artist. Many of the original artworks were bought by Jack Nicholson. John Lennon framed the cover of the book, which depicted him sitting at a lunch-counter with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

“Elvis Presley’s Last Supper” with guests Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Eddie Cochran, feasting on burgers and drinking Coca-Cola.

“Frank Sinatra” – Peellaert pictured Sinatra as a newspaper cutting. The “Frankie Goes Hollywood” headline later inspired singer Holly Johnson for the name of his band, Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

“The Beatles”, the Fab Four chased by a bobby in the streets of Liverpool.


“Otis Redding” by Guy Peellaert

“Superstar Bob”, Bob Dylan in the back of a limousine.

“The Velvet Underground” by Guy Peellaert

“Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” by Guy Peellaert

Soon after the success of “Rock Dreams”, Peellaert created the cover of The Rolling Stones album “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll”, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs”. Many people know these classic album sleeves even if they don’t recognize the name of the artist who painted it.

“It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Album cover art for The Rolling Stones by Guy Peellaert.

“Diamond Dogs” artwork for David Bowie.

Peellaert also designed striking posters for a number of iconic films, including Wenders “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire” and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. His most famous film poster design is probably the one he did for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

In the eighties, Guy Peellaert embarked on an extensive project with the American author Michael Herr, “The Big Room”, a homage to Las Vegas which conceived the city, in Peelleart’s words, as “a big hotel lounge where everybody comes in, out, with their luggage, their problems and their dreams”. It would take 11 years to complete. In 1999, Peellaert and Cohn teamed up again for “20th Century Dreams”, a surrealistic “alternative history” of the 20th century.

“Little Mockstory” – Elvis Presley in police uniform busting through the dormitory door of a pot-smoking Bill Clinton.

“La Bonne Trajectoire”. Genius Albert Eintein shows baseball legend Babe Ruth the perfect swing.

“Caesar’s Palace” – Famous painting of boxer Muhammad Ali, preparing for a title fight.

Guy Peellaert lost his own fight with cancer this week, he died on November 17th, 2008 in Paris aged 74. In 2003, Peellaert told Beaux Arts Magazine: “I’m not bothered about death. Not having any passion while you’re alive, that’s the terrible thing. That’s why “Rock Dreams” still works today. Emotions keep you alive. Rock will always represent the extravagant, the flashy, the fantasy. These pictures are a memento to that dream.”

For a complete overview of Peellaert’s work, exhibitions and bio, you can visit his website.

Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: Micha Klein, Pioneer of the Digital Image Culture

Micha Klein graduated from the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, in 1989 as the first artist to receive a BA in computer graphics. The same year, Klein started exhibiting his gigantic photographic panels in prestigious galleries around the world.

Klein was already known as a successful VJ and experienced a breakthrough on the international club scene before he made it as an artist. Pioneer of the VJ-scene, Micha Klein introduced his rhythmic editing of computer graphics and video images at the first Acid house parties in 1988. In the nineties, he introduced the VJ concept in Ibiza, where he held a residency in legendary club Pacha. The rest of the world would follow fast. Over the years, Klein has seen how things have technically evolved and how the VJ-scene has boomed: “The new equipment and software create new possibilities. We live in a multimedia age, so we can’t live on music alone anymore. Visuals will become an integral part of electronic culture, and in the future DJ’s will become Media Jockey’s” (note: with this 90’s quote, Micha proved to be a real visionary – anno 2008, the age of the Media Jockey has begun with tools as the Pioneer SVM 1000).

In 1998, the Groninger Museum honored him with a retrospective dedicated to 10 years of his graphic production and videos. In 2003, Klein was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the international VJ scene during the AVIT UK summit.

Klein’s artworks are a significant crossover between art, multimedia, video art, VJing, marketing and advertising. They attract attention for their digital approach, surrealistic shapes & objects and bright colors and tell stories of a world that revisits pop art and culture. Klein doesn’t portray reality; he likes to create his own reality.
With his computer manipulated images and psychedelic computer palette, Klein explores the media based culture of our time. He mixes music, club culture, fashion, beauty and mass media to create a wondrous universe somewhere between dream and reality.

The people and landscapes in his artworks are just too beautiful & perfect. They appear unreal, even unearthly. In his series ‘Artificial Beauty’ (1998), Klein generated a new fictitious generation of beautiful young people, taking over the top the all too perfect beings and settings we encounter in advertisements.
By doing so, Klein also shows that today’s photography has no more to do with reality than other types of images. Even the most stunning models are given a Photoshop make-over. The end result is highly artificial, and comments on the aspects of society that Klein finds fascinating yet problematic such as artificial beauty and plastic surgery.

The aesthetics of advertising and elements of everyday and popular culture have always been an integrated element Klein’s art, and he brings everything that is usable over from this world. In true pop art tradition, Micha Klein is a big but critical fan of the techniques and concepts of advertising. Just like Damien Hirst, Klein believes that art must compete with commercial and spectacular expressions: “My work must be as seductive as advertising and entertainment. If not, it loses its visibility in a culture saturated by media, constantly bombarding us with commercial messages. Since these messages have become part of the mainstream culture, it is vital that artists especially can infiltrate this culture with their subversive ideas.”

Over the last years, Micha Klein has worked in clubs around the world and collaborated with superstar DJ Tiësto on visuals for his live-sets and created background projections for Eminem’s concert tour, based on his notorious character Pillman. Klein also did all the artworks for the Dutch dance festival Mysteryland, designed the animations for Jacky Chan’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ movie and did commercial work for companies and brands as Swatch, Philips, Endemol, KPN, Mustang Jeans, Heineken, Hugo Boss and Samsung.

For his first Coca-Cola commercial, Micha Klein managed to put in a girl in a ‘Make Love, Not War’ T-shirt (just before the 2nd Gulf war), a boy wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt the war and girls licking each others faces. The video with music by Monte La Rue, introducing Coca-Cola’s new visual identity by Desgrippes Gobé, was sold to 25 Coca-Cola markets, a lot in Central and South America.

Klein’s commercial jobs and his works of art have a number of parallels in form & content: “It’s fun to stretch the image of a company in directions they never would imagine, to sort of pile your own layer of meaning on top of theirs, to inject some of my own ideas”.
Klein always tries to inject some of his own ideas in his commercial work. “I try to talk to the client and tell them they should transform their strategy to become a ‘good company’, to be closer to their consumers and do community projects. Give back to the people… I think in the future companies will be judged on that”.
By doing commercial assignments, Klein can finance his own art, and is not dependent on government subsidies, which gives him more freedom.

The music & club culture is still a key component in Klein’s work; at times he prefers the unceremonious gathering at clubs to the seriousness of galleries or museums.
For the Coca-Cola commercial “Bubble Dream Girl”, Klein could combine his passion for dance floors and advertising. The clip was shot in Malaga on 35mm, with a 50 people crew and 80 extras. Graphics & special effects were added in post production and his friend Tiësto did the soundtrack.

Last year (2007), ‘Speeding on the Virtual Highway’, a documentary about Micha Klein’s life & work was shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Director Corinne van Egeraat follows Klein as he works on his his new art series. This unique time document shows us how fast digital developments go and how quickly the times they are a-changin’, especially in the case of Klein’s creative way of living.

Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: John Clem Clarke

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular culture and the mass media gained a huge significance in American culture. Pop art that was a sign of the times: a product, a tribute to art history and critique of the social situation.
In the sixties, the New York art scene was very diverse, with people coming from different places, backgrounds and art disciplines & movements. The young John Clem Clarke was always fascinated art & advertising. He moved to New York, started painting and quickly made a name in the NYC pop art scene. Art about art is a continuous thread through Clarke’s work. His series re-working the Old Masters, such as Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are popular icons of the late 60’s.
Clarke’s works, a mix of photo-realism and comic style with a pop art imagery. hang today in major museums as NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art & Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, LA’s County Museum and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum.

Clarke works in the pop art tradition of Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Liechtenstein & Tom Wesselmann, drawn on the graphic vocabularies of commercial modernity: “I play back and forth using unique objects and a mass-produced presentation style. You might say that ideas I express are a lot more complex than the apparently simple style I use to express them”.
Speed is vital to the freshness of John Clem Clarke’s works, and animation is the key to his style. Every line is alive, no edge is ever straight. The large size of his artworks plays an important role in the transformation of Clarke’s illustration-based style into high art.
Working on big size canvasses, his work is quite technical. The last years he uses a computer for the design phase, but before he had to work out all specific details as a sketch, use an overhead projector to project this sketches on a canvas, drew the projected image and finally paint it.” His way of working is very similar to the work of illustrators of comics or how graphic designers work today in Photoshop. Clarke: “My first layer was always the black outline. Then I painted a colored layer underneath using the line drawing as an overlay. This is the same technique Disney cartoonists used years ago. Of course, when I was developing it as my own way of working, I didn’t know that. For the actual painting, I use large stencils. I lay them onto the canvas and sponge the paint on. This way there are no brush strokes. Sometimes, I overlay the stencils so that you get the sort of effect you see when a picture isn’t printed quite right -just a little offset. I like that irregular edge”. Just like the works by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michelle Basquiat, John Clem Clarke’s oeuvre is complete with imperfections: “Instead of painting out my “mistakes”, I let them stay on the canvas as alternative solutions to the painting and to show the thought process in making a painting. It bothers me when things look too good. I like to paint and paint and paint, until I get it wrong.”

On weekends, Clarke still roams around flea and antiques markets, looking for vintage retro objects, advertising material and photographs he can use as a point of departure for his artworks. The great ads from the fifties and early sixties are a big source of inspiration: “I try to make the paintings seem as commercially produced as possible. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it as a visual style. I make art in a way that people find it immediately accessible”.
Clarke found his future as an artist in his past through the subject matter, themes and styles of forties, fifties & sixties. But Clarke’s works also speak of the present, the moment he creates them, by his vision & the personal touch of his brushstroke.

In the 1910s, the Coca-Cola Company ran an ad of a gorgeous woman drinking a Coke. The copy read: “Nothing is so suggestive of Coca-Cola’s own pure deliciousness as the picture of a beautiful, sweet, wholesome, womanly woman.”
Associating itself with an ideal American girl, Coca-Cola made its appeal to the public. Clarke takes this advertising concept one step further and combines the “Coca-Cola girl” billboard with the all American theme of a police car chase. His painting “Police Behind Cola Billboard” is so filmesque, that we actually wonder what will happen next…

Rubens LP, Drawings from the Soul

Brazilian-born Rubens LP remembers spending hours as a child drawing comic heroes like Wolverine, Superman, Batman and the X-men with his father. But even though he stopped drawing for a number of years after that, somehow that passion never left him, and by the time he was in college he was drawing all the time.
Exhibitions of Dali, Picasso, Miró and the Brazilian artist Aldemir Martins also made a strong impression on him. One glance at his works show that despite its contemporary outlook, there’s a traditional heart beating within.

For Rubens LP, creating artwork is about inspiring people, and true art has a unique kind of beauty. It’s never about the money, but it’s always about being true to yourself.
LP also loves to read, and feels he’s discovering the world through studying philosophy, socialism and religion. Perhaps tellingly, he explains: ” I don’t draw with my mind; I draw with the soul. And everything inspires my soul. Everything”.

Rubens LP’s clients include Smart, Brazilian model and actress Alinne Moraes, Absolut Vodka, Simyo, Borgata and Sony Ericsson. Here you can see the artworks Rubens LP designed for a Coca-Cola & MTV Brasil project.


Illustration for MTV Magazine


Billboard for Borgata Casino

You can check out more of the LP’s wonderful graphics on his personal website and on Fluxus Central, a portfolio of his commercial works.

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