Saturday, January 31, 2009

Joe Coleman: Afraid of the Void

Joe Coleman. I don’t claim to know much about this Outsider Artist beyond what I have seen of his pieces. I do know that his subjects lean toward the murderous and the outlaws, those who live in the shadowy side of the street. His artwork has certain attributes of horror vacui (literally, ‘fear of empty spaces’), a quality often found in works created by the mentally ill in which practically every available spot on the paper or canvas is taken up. Think of it as the direct antithesis of minimalism.

Coleman first caught my eye with his banned artwork for the terrifying crime thriller Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, and his cover art for the Amok Press edition of vagabond author Jack Black’s You Can’t Win. Black’s autobiographical account of his life on the hustle was a great influence on Beat author William S. Burroughs, who supplies the foreword to this edition.

(Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer)

(You Can’t Win)

What struck me most interesting about Coleman’s work–and of horror vacui as a whole–was the startling similarities I saw between it and Mandalas, the heavily symbolic Wheel Of Life found in Buddhism and other Dharmic religions. It’s almost as if insanity and faith aren’t that far distant from one another…at least on paper.

(Faith by Joe Coleman)

(Buddhist Mandala)

From a horror movie to the Beat generation to Eastern religion: Joe Coleman has taken us full circle.

Check out his website, or purchase a book of his work.

–J/Metro

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