The world's greatest book publisher, Fantagraphics, has just released The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora, filled with illustrations by this playful and brilliant mid-century record album, book, and magazine illustrator. It's edited by pop-culture historian and preservationist Irwn Chusid.
The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora, following hot on the heels of 2004’s The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (which sold out within a matter of months, but which is being reprinted with this latest volume of Floriana) features a wide array of both his commercial work for prestigious record labels of the ’40s and rare, personal work that he did solely for himself.
Flora was prolific in his commercial work; he created art privately in equal measure -- and often with more fiendish pleasure. His style is cartoonish, evoking childhood nostalgia and dereliction of adult responsibility.
There is also a wealth of 1940s Columbia Records printed matter exhibiting Flora's visual pranks; 1950s RCA Victor-era work; magazine illos, sketchbooks, and prints; 1930s Little Man Press-era drawings; paintings from all decades; photos, and personal keepsakes. All are abundantly represented in The Curiously Sinister Art. Flora's early 1940s musician portraits in Columbia bulletins are raucous and undignified, featuring piss-takes on such legends as Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, and Gene Krupa.
Flora once said he "could not do likenesses" — so he conjured outlandish caricatures. His exotic fauna defy logic and the laws of physics. We suspect he often leaned back from the drafting table, examined his work, and issued a macabre chuckle. Much of the work in the book is light-hearted — it's not all Flora 'rassling his demons. But even in his impish renderings, there's something vaguely unsettling in the nuances. His comic grotesqueries echoed, and in many cases foreshadowed, the 1950s Harvey Kurtzman-era MAD magazine, as well as the underground comix of the late 1960s.
Previously on Boing Boing:
• The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora Link
• Cool Jim Flora illustration from 1960 issue of Spanish Life magazine Link
• The Day the Cow Sneezed: Jim Flora book from 1957 Link
• Interview with artist Jim Flora's archivist Link
• Jim Flora in the New York Times Link