The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, edited by Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon, was published today. Jim Flora was best known as a jazz record cover artist, but he also created many sweetly diabolic magazine illustrations in the 1940s and 1950s. Until Irwin Chusid started curating and assembling art books about Flora several years ago, it was hard to find examples of Flora's work.
Tim Biskup told me the the first time he saw Flora's work (when he was in a used record store) he felt his brain rewiring on the spot, forever changing his approach to art.
Irwin Chusid sent me a PDF of the book a while back and I gave him the following blurb:
"Jim Flora's artwork is ultraviolet radiation in tempera and ink – it crackles with such energy, it practically sizzles ozone."
Jim Flora (1914Â-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.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.