In 1990, the first Gulf War was in full swing, much like today’s indiscriminate bloodbaths and dear friends like David Wojnarowicz were dying of AIDS. So for my second solo show at the venerable Grace Borgenicht Gallery on 57th Street (kitty corner from Trump Tower), I chose to make a large pastel revisioning of Brueghel’s terrifying 1562 painting The Triumph of Death, which resides in the Prado.
Brueghel’s version is pretty hard to look at, and my detail of his likewise, but nonetheless, mine was used by editor Michael Carter to be the cover of Tragicomix, the final issue of his art/poetry zine Redtape. Michael said on Facebook, “I gave (a copy) to (William) Burroughs, who cribbed the original on Cities of the Red Night; he laughed.” So great!—it gave old Bill a guffaw, that fucking pervert, and thanks to Grace, my drawing ended up becoming part of the collection of the Newark Museum.
Unfortunately, the composition continues to have relevance, and will ongoing as long as we humans continue to make our planet a living Hell. Last year, Steven Hager, the former editor of High Times, commissioned me to make another pastel version of it. I used a somewhat different method for the color, eschewing black. I’m quite happy with this one.
A few months later I did an ink drawing that widened the picture plane to incorporate more of the harrowing details of Brueghel’s fearsome painting. Because, two horses is better than one.
Then I made yet another, even larger pastel drawing with that composition for my own amusement.
Well, it isn’t very amusing. (By the way the last two, the ink drawing and the big pastel are available. DM me.)