Thursday, 20 November 2008
Artzybasheff’s exotic and bizarre illustrations made frequent appearances in the mid-century pages of Life and Fortune and on the cover of Time. Airbrushed forms, masses of accumulated detail and bio-mechanical fantasy figures populate his images. He made a speciality of illustrating the unpleasant and unpalatable. Machines of warfare and the global spread of tropical diseases were typical subjects. Quality control was not always in evidence and some fairly feeble stuff found its way into print but at his best the scale and bravura of his magnificent cast of malevolent characters was irresistible. The visual vocabulary of medieval demonology was cheerfully combined with the Astounding Science Fiction genre.
Boris had a liking for vast, sprawling cosmologies but even by his standards this Hindu Pantheon was a tour de force. Life magazine published it as a three page gatefold in the issue dated March 7, 1955. It was a spectacular image that enabled Boris to deploy his full repertory of grotesqueries but the mood is lighter and more playful than usual despite the decapitations and disembowellings. This was a subject that surpassed even Boris’s wildest imaginings and the finished article has more than a hint of Bollywood about it. This could well have been Boris’s finest hour. For more examples of the strange workings of the Boris imagination, a visit to Chris Mullen’s Alphabet of Illustrators is essential.