In the town of Hasselt, Belgium a special exhibition opens next week with visual art by Belgian artists and rock musicians. The eye catcher for this exhibition, which is held in the former local prison, is without a doubt Pop Art icon Guy Peellaert. For Peellaert, who is 74, remarkably it is the first time his work has been on display in his native Belgium.
(frames from Les Aventures de Jodelle, (c) Guy Peellaert)
Peellaert was born in 1934, and started working as an advertising artist and set designer. In 1966 he published one of the first Pop Art comics, Jodelle, in the French alternative comics magazine Hara-Kiri (have a look at his Lambiek entry here). In 1968 this was followed by Pravda, la Surviveuse, which was inspired by French singer Françoise Hardy, and which confirmed his name as one of the best experimental cartoonists of his time.
Even though he later published two more comic books, which were even more experimental, Peellaert soon saw that the medium of comics was too limited for what he was trying to achieve. He started working with collage techniques, combining and modifying existing photographs in a new, often explicit scenery. In 1973 he published Rock Dreams, with text by journalist Nick Cohn, which he intended as a farewell to his to his youth and a salute to the music that inspired him. The book featured some of his most famous works, such as the portrait of lonesome Bob Dylan in the back of a limousine, or the Rolling Stones in full Nazi uniforms, together with naked, underage girls (which we would probably get arrested for showing now – Joe).
(Bob Dylan from Rock Dreams, borrowed from the artist’s website and (c) Guy Peellaert)
Rock Dreams sold about a million copies world wide (and is currently available in reprint from Taschen). This at least got the attention of the rock and film world, and Peellaert went on to design album covers for the likes of David Bowie – Diamond Dogs, Anyone – The Rolling Stones and Willy DeVille. He also created film posters for Wim Wenders – Paris Texas and Der Himmel Uber Berlin (or as it is better known here, the exquisitely beautiful Wings of Desire – Joe) – Martin Scorsese – Taxi Driver – Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppolla, and others. Two more books with collage paintings, The Big Room (1986, with Michael Herr) and Twentieth Century Dreams (1999). In 2000 his international fame as a pop artist was again confirmed with a reprint of his comics in Japan, followed by a Pravda exhibition in Tokyo in 2004.
(Flipper Comics – the Japanese contemporary take on Guy Peellaert’s Pop Art comics, borrowed from the artist’s site and (c) Guy Peellaert)
Next to Peellaert, Pop-Eye also shows work by thirty other Belgian artists, including fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck, musicians Bent van Looy and Mauro Pawlowski, cartoonist Kamagurka and illustrator Sarah Yu Zeebroek (see here for an earlier post on both Kamagurka and his daughter Sarah – Joe).
Pop-Eye runs from May 7th until June 16th in the Old Prison of Hasselt, open from 11am until 6pm on Tuesdays to Sundays; for more details visit the official site; the artist’s own site can be visited here.