Kurt Cobain Exhibition debuts at Seattle Art Fair
Kurt Cobain's exhibition at the Seattle Art Fair debuted earlier this month, showcasing works from the late musician and artists Mike Kelley, Joe Bradley and Dash Snow among others.
At this year's Fair, UTA Artist Space will house two "never-before-seen" paintings by Cobain, including the iconic artwork for Nirvana's 1992 compilation album, Incesticide, as well as a selection of notebook sketches.
The Nirvana frontman became the poster-boy for the grunge movement of the early 1990's, and though his artistic work was overshadowed by the band's headline-grabbing antics, he is still remembered as one of, if not THE most, influential musician of the last 25 years.
“Kurt Cobain was perhaps the most iconic musician of his generation, but his work as a visual artist is often overlooked... these paintings provide an opportunity to see him, and some of his contemporaries, in a new light." - Josh Roth, Head of UTA Fine Arts
Troubled minds and creative talent seem to share the same sides of the coin; this seems to be the fabled cliché of pained artists gone by, from Van Gogh and Sylvia Plath to Tennessee Williams and Ian Curtis. Without discounting the recent loss of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, Kurt's struggles seem to be the most modern case in point.
The concepts of his lyrics, frequently expressed through a morbid sense of humour and a distressed mental state, often weaved themselves into his artistic depictions. Though a lot of his work characterised marionettes, namely "Futile" and "Incesticide", Kurt also had an interest in medical conditions and human anatomy.
"Crack Babies" was just one of a string of designs that Kurt had produced around babies. The purity of new life forming conflicting heavily with the sentiment of drug abuse was something he liked to play around with. But this fascination was no secret. Baby imagery can be found across a lot of Nirvana material, from various record covers (namely Nevermind (1991), the "Lithium" single (1992) and the translation of their third studio In Utero (1993)) to lyrical content and music videos. Kurt has been quoted as saying: "Holding my daughter is the best drug in the world".
While there is an entire back catalogue of grotesque lyrical passages from the Seattle group, lines like "I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black" and "Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back" really manifest Kurt's strange obsession with physiology. These particular citations both feature in the 1993 hit "Heart-Shaped Box", from In Utero. This kind of aberrant fantasy managed to seep into the video production for the song, which featured hanging foetuses, poppy fields and a child in Klan dress.
Though many would argue that Kurt's artistic creations were somewhat controversial, it was this kind of explicit imagery that not only shaped the identity of Nirvana, but bolstered the level of intrigue surrounding their eccentric frontman. Since his untimely death in the spring of 1994, Kurt has carried with him both an artistic and musical legacy, the likes of which has not been seen in music to this very day.