In Memoriam : François Cavanna, co-founder of Hara-Kiri

Guy Peellaert (up left) and François Cavanna (up right) pose with fellow  Hara-Kiri  contributors in 1968.

Guy Peellaert (up left) and François Cavanna (up right) pose with fellow Hara-Kiri contributors in 1968.

François Cavanna, maverick journalist and co-founder of the groundbreaking French counter-culture publication Hara-Kiri, died on Wednesday, aged 90.
Upon the controversial publication of The Adventures of Jodelle in 1966, it was Cavanna who welcomed Guy Peellaert into the close-knit circle of rebels and anarchists then using Hara-Kiri as a powerful, censorship-defying tribune against the conservative values prevalent in France prior to the upheavals of 1968. Cavanna gave Peellaert carte blanche to create a recurring all-color comic—the rest of the publication was still printed in black and white—to inaugurate a new version of the monthly magazine after it had been shut down by the Charles de Gaulle administration for its perceived threat to French youth. Launching with the January 1967 issue, Pravda became a cultural sensation and its emancipated title heroine an enduring icon of European Pop art, the sexual revolution and a rising ambivalent feeling toward consumer society.

Between 1968 and 1970, Peellaert followed Pravda with three shorter experimental comics—all published in Hara Kiri under Cavannabefore moving on to a whole new phase of his career with the project that would become Rock Dreams. Although Peellaert, a self-professed loner, would later confess to have never quite fit in with the group mentality of Hara-Kiri, he nevertheless found kindred spirits and lifelong friends in such fellow contributing artists as Jean Giraud (better known as Moebius), Roland Topor or Willem.

While numerous books have been published in France about Hara-Kiri and its influence, a new coffee table tome devoted specifically to the magazine's drawings and illustrations has been released under the title La Gloire de Hara-Kiri just in time to pay homage to a dream team of rule-breakers, assembled by Cavanna with a certain genius. 

You can read more about the extraordinary life of François Cavanna in this obituary from Le Monde (in French).

It was François Cavanna who invited Peellaert to create a recurring comic in the pages of  Hara-Kiri . The artist created Pravda, an iconic heroine modeled after Françoise Hardy. Here, Pravda is featured on a poster advertising the October 1967 issue of the counter-cultural publication. This is the first known occurrence of the famous "Pravda with Coca-Cola" image. 

It was François Cavanna who invited Peellaert to create a recurring comic in the pages of Hara-Kiri. The artist created Pravda, an iconic heroine modeled after Françoise Hardy. Here, Pravda is featured on a poster advertising the October 1967 issue of the counter-cultural publication. This is the first known occurrence of the famous "Pravda with Coca-Cola" image. 

Guy Peellaert tribute featured in 7Hollywood

We are pleased to announce that the latest issue of bi-annual art-and-style publication 7Hollywood has an exclusive 14-page feature on Guy Peellaert's life and legacy. Interspersed throughout the Fantasy themed issue —which has seven different covers to choose from— are some of  most memorable images from Rock Dreams and Twentieth Century Dreams as well as a short yet insightful essay by Stephanie du Tan. 

The self-described "chic, grand, ego-driven, and larger-than-life" publication is available in major cities worldwide and its digital edition can be downloaded on iPad from the Apple App Store here.

In Memoriam : Nelson Mandela among "The Warriors" by Guy Peellaert

Nelson Mandela at the Berlin Wall, holding the arm of legendary German boxing champion Max Schmeling. The two men are surrounded by the great German political figures and artists Franz Beckenbauer, Gunter Grass, Peter Zadek, Leni Riefenstahl, Walter Momper, Helmut Kohl, Richard von Weizsacker and Wim Wenders, with Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovitch depicted on the far right.

"The Warriors", from Twentieth Century Dreams, 1995-1999.

In Memoriam : Lou Reed and Guy Peellaert, living the Rock dream

Lou Reed and David Bowie by Guy Peellaert, from Rock Dreams (1970-1973).

When he created Rock Dreams, Guy Peellaert's vision for the portrait of personal hero Lou Reed was that of a nail-biting victim terrified of David Bowie, depicted as an androgynous vampire-like figure lurking in Reed's shadow, waiting to make his move. 

"How did you know? That bitch stole everything from me." 
That was Lou Reed's comment to Peellaert as he gamely posed for pictures in front of his portrait at the 1974 opening of the Rock Dreams exhibition in New York, where the original paintings were shown for the first time in the US.

As for Bowie, not only did he commission Peellaert to create the artwork for his next album—he also bought the original painting.  

This 1974 photograph of Lou Reed posing in front of his portrait —now owned by David Bowie—and holding a copy of the first US edition of  Rock Dreams  was one of Peellaert's cherished possessions. 

This 1974 photograph of Lou Reed posing in front of his portrait —now owned by David Bowie—and holding a copy of the first US edition of Rock Dreams was one of Peellaert's cherished possessions. 

Of Reed, Peellaert would declare he had been "God to me". More precious to him than the praise he earned from the likes of Bowie, Jagger or Lennon, it was Reed's reaction to Rock Dreams that Peellaert confessed had touched him most intimately.  "I was in my hotel room and I got a cryptic note from him. When the concierge called and said he was downstairs, waiting to see me, I felt I hadn't done all this for nothing."

 On October 14th 2013, two weeks before his death, Lou Reed posted his Rock Dreams portrait (recropped without Bowie) on his official Facebook account.

In several interviews, Peellaert would later single out The Velvet Underground's 1968 "White Light / White Heat" as his all-time favorite album, confessing he had listened to it nonstop toward the end of his iconic Pop period in Paris in the late 1960s, and that the album had helped mark a transition to the Rock period that would follow between 1970 and 1973 with Rock Dreams.

The Velvet Underground by Guy Peellaert, from Rock Dreams (1970-1973).





California Girls revisited on new Tristesse Contemporaine LP

One of the enduring classics from Rock Dreams has been revisited by appropriation artist Elisabeth Arkhipoff in a singular artwork that pays tribute to Guy Peellaert's California Girls—enhancing Peellaert's original vision of an eerie quintet of beach babes, tinged with an almost imperceptible hint of monstrosity behind the smiles and bikini bodies. Arkhipoff's surreal work graces the cover of Stay Golden, the new album from Japanese-French electro-pop music trio Tristesse Contemporaine (Record Makers).

After an exclusive launch on the Colette website earlier this month, the record is now available everywhere.

Film Fest Gent celebrates Martin Scorsese and Guy Peellaert

Belgium's prestigious Film Fest Gent celebrates its 40th anniversary edition with a focus on American Indepent cinema, a large-scale Martin Scorsese exhibition and numerous film music events.
To mark the occasion, the Festival has asked Martin Scorsese to pay tribute to the artist responsible for one of cinema's most iconic images.

"At some point back in the 70s, I came across a book of paintings called Rock Dreams. I started thumbing through the pages and I was taken aback. Here were the heroes of rock and roll, blues and country, past and present, in settings that encapsulated their mythical auras and that preserved the danger of their music. This is something that’s been lost, I think, over the years. Even in the 70s, the music – the best of it – felt ominous, sometimes menacing, and so did many of the people who made it. Hank Williams is now officially recognized as a great artist, one of the greatest singers and songwriters we’ve ever had. When you see the image of him in Rock Dreams, you feel the wild instability that was inseparable from the genius.

When we decided on the poster art for Taxi Driver, we went to the man who had created Rock Dreams. He understood exactly what we wanted and he not only delivered it but surpassed it – he knew the character of Travis Bickle inside out, his stance, his environment, and – most importantly – his eyes. I started and ended the picture with Travis’s eyes, watching, sensitive instruments that registered any potential enemies. Again, he knew where the danger was.

People often tell me how much they love the Taxi Driver poster. I always tell them that there was only one man for the job. His name was Guy Peellaert."

—Martin Scorsese, July 23 2013. 



A tribute to Kim Thompson (1956-2013)

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson. Artwork by Michael Netzer.

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson. Artwork by Michael Netzer.

It has been already a week since the shocking news of Kim Thompson's passing. Before the dust starts to settle on a sad and untimely event whose impact will no doubt continue to be felt for a long time, I wanted to get a chance to express my appreciation for the man who had been an inspiring collaborator for the past two years and played a crucial part in bringing Guy Peellaert's The Adventures of Jodelle back to life in all its former glory.

When Kim first got in touch by email—a short time after Peellaert lost his own battle against cancer— to express interest in publishing new American editions of the landmark Pop Art graphic novels Jodelle and Pravda nearly 50 years after their original publication, I had no idea who he was but I remember thinking to myself that there was someone way ahead of the whole comics game. Despite acquiring iconic status over the years, gracing the walls of several museums throughout Europe and never failing to inspire a wide variety of artists operating in all mediums, both works had remained out-of-print collectors items since the 1960s and they were very much ripe for a resurgence. For all kinds of impenetrable reasons, all previous attempts to publish "definitive" or "commemorative" editions of the books, whether in the US or in Europe, had yet to come to fruition and Peellaert himself had grown content with the occasional tribute, exhibition or special project devoted to his acclaimed yet elitist pre-Rock Dreams accomplishments.
That Kim wanted to bring these long overdue titles to Fantagraphics wasn't surprising in itself, but his knowledge of the works ran impressively deep —who else in America knew about The Game, She & the Green Hairs or Carashi! , Peellaert's more overtly experimental, drug-fueled comics that were serialized in the French counter-cultural bible Hara Kiri in the late 1960s and that Kim also wanted to publish in a separate third volume ?
Right from his very first message, Kim exuded the kind of unbridled enthusiasm which, when coupled with a discerning eye for all the technical challenges that this level of restoration work would bring, makes you intimately confident that a delicate masterpiece is in the best of hands thanks to a single fundamental value proposition : passion and the uncompromising commitment to excellence that comes with it.
Kim even convinced me to let him produce an all-new english-language translation, no small feat given that Jodelle had been previously published and translated stateside by the great Richard Seaver of Grove Press at the height of his powers in 1967.

Throughout the making of Jodelle and for more than two years Kim and I communicated almost daily, exclusively by email (never heard the man's voice!) , and not once did he lose his cool as the planned 20-page supplement soon turned to 40, 60, and finally 80 lavish pages tracing Peellaert's "Pop Years" from the original publication of Jodelle to the final comics of the late 1960s, a period of whirlwind artistic experimentations far beyond the realm of comics that Kim discovered with a renewed sense of wonder as I sent out chapter after chapter, image after image.
The project thus became a whole different animal, and our insistence on producing "the best work that we possibly could" (his words) caused a few worrisome delays :  the book was ultimately released in April 2013, more than a year after gracing the cover of Fantagraphics' Spring 2012 catalogue. The long-awaited release happened only a few weeks after Kim was diagnosed with cancer and had to suddenly step back from his day-to-day responsibilities in order to seek treatment. In the last emails we exchanged, shortly before the sad news broke, he expressed how happy he was with the book that would soon turn out to be his last major accomplishment as publisher. "I like to just flip it open and just stare at it", reads one of his last messages, "now let's just hope it sells". Now, without his contagious energy and enthusiasm who knows whether it will "sell", all I know is that the book is indeed as perfect as it could be, that my famously perfectionist father would have been satisfied and that I am proud to have collaborated with Kim Thompson to produce what Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth called his colleague's "crowning achievement". 

All my thoughts and prayers go out to Kim's family, the "real" one and the one at Fantagraphics (no less real of course) as they are faced with a tremendous loss.  It's been an honor and privilege.

—Orson Peellaert, Paris, June 27th 2013


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum presents "Rolling Stones : 50 Years of Satisfaction" exhibit

As London's Victoria & Albert Museum continues to break attendance records with its blockbuster David Bowie Is exhibition (tickets have been sold out since the first days of the March opening, a first in the museum's venerable history) Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has unveiled an ambitious Rolling Stones retrospective. 50 Years of Satisfaction coincides with the iconic band's current "50 and Counting" tour and celebrates the Stones' unique legacy. Among the personal items and extraordinary collections on view is a development-stage version of Guy Peellaert's famous album artwork for It's Only Rock ' N Roll.
On loan from a private collector, the black-and-white collage from 1975 provides a rare opportunity to witness the artist's complex and painstaking layering technique in the days before the ubiquity of software-assisted photographic compositing. Peellaert destroyed almost all of the Rock Dreams-era sketches and tentative compositions.
This is the first time the piece is exhibited in the U.S.

The Adventures of Jodelle : advance preview copies now available exclusively at Colette

colette paris.jpg

The long-awaited new edition of The Adventures of Jodelle, which marks the Estate of Guy Peellaert's first major publishing project, is still another month away (the U.S release has been pushed back yet again, this time to April 20th) but those visiting Paris in the next few days are in luck : we are happy to report that fashion and lifestyle mecca Colette has a few world-exclusive advance copies of the Fantagraphics book.
—Get it while it's hot !