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Friday, November 21, 2008

Art: Artist Guy Peellaert Dies - Designed Album Covers, Created Rock Dreams

Guy Peellaert was the Dutch-born artists responsible for illustrating the book Rock Dreams (1976), a tome that introduced me at a young and impressionable age to the history and more importantly the mythology of rock and roll. His dreamlike, paintings were filled with the humor, lust and grandeur of rock - I always wished that he and writer Nik Cohn would update this masterpiece to cover the crucial years after 1977 but this was not to be the case.

In a sense this is as it should be, for what Rock Dreams enshrined was a canon of music that would fragment in the wake of punk into a million jagged pieces with narratives that spoke to an increasingly specialized audience. Still, I like to think that some of the visual storytelling he employed found it's echo in the early videos of the 80s which codified easy to swallow personas for stars like Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol,  ZZ Top and Madonna.

His visual style owed a debt to Edward Hopper, with a touch of photorealism and occasional collage elements woven in. His post Rock Dreams work continued his obsession with pop culture and Americana mythmaking with images of Betty Hutton and George Raft amongst others. His later works expanded his scope to take in the entirety of 20th century pop culture and world history.

He's also well known for doing the covers for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs album (famous for having to emasculate the Bowie/canine hybrid) and the Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock N' Roll album.

Here are some of his best pieces:

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