Baby Art
March 2, 2006 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Not safe for work: Baby Art: the profoundly fucked-up artwork of one Trevor Brown, a fabulously unwell individual.
posted by Gator (49 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I don't see what's so NSFW about these illustrations, the first few seem... OWWW!! MY EYES!!!
posted by justkevin at 8:04 AM on March 2, 2006

Yikes, I probably just got on a list viewing some of those.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:04 AM on March 2, 2006

Kinda reminds me of those.. uh... nude pre-teen drawings that were linked here about 2 years ago?
posted by slater at 8:08 AM on March 2, 2006

Vicious. I sense the artist channelling Bacon and Mapplethorpe. Or maybe just J-Rape.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:12 AM on March 2, 2006

The illustrator's equivalent of the dead baby joke.
posted by three blind mice at 8:18 AM on March 2, 2006

fabulously unwell individual

Because whether or not Gator likes the themes in your artwork is an excellent indicator of wellness.
posted by mendel at 8:23 AM on March 2, 2006

Damn, I work from home and this stuff isn't even suitable for viewing *there*.

Good post though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 AM on March 2, 2006

Someone explain for those of us at work? The suspense is killing me!
posted by katiecat at 8:24 AM on March 2, 2006

Well katie, it's just this side of porn/bdsm or some pedophiliac sickophant stuff. but his technique is well honed if you care. Wow, best of the web on Mefi today.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:31 AM on March 2, 2006

Thanks very much, Mr Hung. I'll opt to not get the sack by risking it.
posted by katiecat at 8:38 AM on March 2, 2006

Wikipedia summarizes things pretty well, actually:

"Though presently living in Japan, Trevor Brown is a British artist whose work explores paraphilias, such as pedophilia, BDSM, and other fetish themes, with unusual wit." His illustrations often feature childlike dolls, bondage, blood and menstruation and rape with enough surreal or hyperreal elements to remind you that you're looking at an idea, a situation, not a literal representation of the paraphilia's he's referencing.

Brown's pop-art (he tends to produce as much for magazine, book and CD covers as for hanging on the wall) tends to be shocking, but it's so over-the-top that it's clear you're being let in on the joke. Picture Mark Ryden where the surrealism is explicitly illustrated instead of implied.

It intrigues me that one common reaction seems to be "I'm not supposed to look at that!". But you can look at a lot of it on bookstore and CD store shelves, let alone gallery walls and the Internet; Brown knows where the lines are and how close to them he can safely go. His illustrations suggest that somewhere, someone's going to get turned on by the subject, but they're not that way for that someone; they're like that to draw that emotion out of the rest of us.

Brown's as much a pedophile as Tarantino is a killer or Stephen King is a psycho, though; people react to his images that way because he created them to draw those reactions, not because he's illustrating his fantasies.
posted by mendel at 8:41 AM on March 2, 2006

oh shit
posted by matteo at 8:47 AM on March 2, 2006

The artwork dosn't seem sexual to me (I only looked at few because I am at work). It's more just odd and shocking
posted by delmoi at 8:48 AM on March 2, 2006

posted by stenseng at 8:54 AM on March 2, 2006

If you think this is shocking, you must not know about 4chan. Now those folks, they can melt corneas!
posted by jenovus at 9:02 AM on March 2, 2006

Some artists from the same style/movement, for those who haven't encountered this corner of the art world before (all potentially NSFW, although none so much as Brown):

Mark Ryden (borderline NSFW? I can't remember how explicit he gets) is probably the best-known of the genre, to the point where others with similar styles are accused of being derivative of him when they're really just contemporaries. Supercute children, meat, and Abe Lincoln.

Loretta Lux (probably SFW, but YMMV) is a digital photographer who's come up on Metafilter before, I'm sure. Lux emphasizes the hyperrealist end of the genre.

Ray Caesar (not safe for work) falls in right between Ryden, Brown, and Lux, in my opinion; a lot more provocative without the outright nastiness of Brown. I'm not that familiar with Caesar's work compared to the others.

Lori Earley (also nsfw) is another I'm only vaguely aware of. A lot darker and a bit more serious than some of the others.

(And after all that you might like Isabel Samaras's (NSFW for nudity, but less so for offensive ideas) romantic-through-erotic reinterpretations of late-20th-century television stars. Samaras doesn't really fit in so well with the other artists I mentioned, because she's painting contemporary subjects in an old-masters style, but I like to take any opportunity I can to introduce people to her work. It's just fun. Pop-art meets slashfic.)
posted by mendel at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2006

These are great.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:10 AM on March 2, 2006

Meh. I don't think I'm that jaded, but I don't see anything the least bit shocking about this stuff. Tedious and juvenile, yes, but not shocking.
posted by jack_mo at 9:10 AM on March 2, 2006

Interesting. Thanks for the extra links Mendel.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:17 AM on March 2, 2006

Cheers for those links, mendel - Loretta Lux is interesting, but I don't really see how she fits with the others you point to... I dunno, they're all so lumpen and obvious, stuck in a stylistic rut, and too easy - artists you can just 'get' straight away like that always seem seriously lacking to me, like conceptual artists who work in quick quips instead of ideas. Weirdly, they all remind me of Jack Vettriano (!) in that they all look like they reproduce well, but would be instantly forgettable in the flesh.
posted by jack_mo at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2006

(Er, just read a bit about Caeser's working method, so scratch that last sentence when it comes to him!)
posted by jack_mo at 9:25 AM on March 2, 2006

I dunno -- if you can get Mark Ryden right away, you're a lot quicker than I. "Obvious" is the last word I'd use to describe him. The problem with Ryden is that there's a reason for everything thrown together in his work; it's not just a random juxtaposition, and he's not explaining. But on the face of it, obviousness has been around in modern and contemporary art (especially pop-art) for a century. We're mostly over that now, even if people are still taking swings at Duchamp's fountain.

It's certainly fine to not like that style, or to not like pop-art in principle, but I'm not sure how "forgettable" is different from "not liking it". I recall the details of Raymond Chandler novels better than those of Umberto Eco, but I'm not sure I'd criticize Eco as being forgettable. What contemporary artists and genres do you prefer?
posted by mendel at 9:49 AM on March 2, 2006

Really, what's "witty" about BDSM pedophilia? It's truly revolting. barf.
posted by nickyskye at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2006

mendel, if you could pick a ryden work and explain what it means, I'd be much appreciative. I've always assumed it follows a gut-feeling dream-logic that doesn't make much sense when you try to explain it rationally.

Are you talking about the mystical "runes" in some of the paintings?
posted by fleetmouse at 9:57 AM on March 2, 2006

If you think this is shocking, you must not know about 4chan. Now those folks, they can melt corneas!
posted by jenovus at 9:02 AM PST on March 2

Actually, I first saw the Penis Pixie on 4chan quite awhile ago, and wondered who the artist was.

Thanks, Gator!

posted by Floach at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2006

Kmart big-eye art meets tenacle anime.
posted by HTuttle at 10:02 AM on March 2, 2006

if you could pick a ryden work and explain what it means, I'd be much appreciative.

I really can't -- it's more just a pile of ideas I've picked up from reading other people's commentary, and I'm pretty far from an art expert even though I've heard of the artists! It's been enough to annoy but not enough to try to solve for me. There's a good dose of numerology in there, though, and that's one of those things that I've never had the patience to have explained.

I'm surprised you didn't include Gottfried Helnwein in your list.

Hadn't encountered him before! I'll have to check it out.
posted by mendel at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2006

I like this a lot, recurring underage camel toe and all.

Actually, I'm not sure this is so much "pedophile" as it reflects a particular Japanese aesthetic.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2006

I'd add Timothy Cummings to Mendel's list.
posted by obloquy at 10:22 AM on March 2, 2006

What contemporary artists and genres do you prefer?

I write about art, and see so much, I often forget what it is I really like (honestly, it gets confusing!). Speaking as loosely as possible: I like a lot of modernist stuff, of stuff riffing on these ideas nowadays, minimalism (eg. people like Lawrence Weiner, Fred Sandback - I should be writing about the latter now), will always love Warhol, whose obviousness is pretty bloody complex; tend to be gripped by installation and sculpture more than, you know, all the other stuff. Specific artists: as I'm based in permanently booming Glasgow, my enthusiasms tend to be quite local, because that's what I see all the time, last two shows that knocked my head off were Cathy Wilkes (profile, old review, both pseudo-self links, both dead wanky) and Luke Fowler (review, actual self-link).

The problem with Ryden is that there's a reason for everything thrown together in his work; it's not just a random juxtaposition, and he's not explaining.

Yeah, that's what I meant about him being instantly get-able - I got that, couldn't muster the enthusiasm to look deeper. Ie it's obvious what he's up to, not that the work itself is necessarily obvious as in easily interpretable. What I like about the two artists I mention above is the fact that I ultimately have no fucking idea what they're doing, how their practice operates (Luke especially mucks about with what it is to be an 'artist'), how the self-reflexivity of their practices works, or why, say, Wilkes' placement of objects in a space makes me literally weak at the knees (the objects she places are more easily grasped, kind of post-post-feminist-ish).

Er, not sure if I've explained myself - it basically boils down to the fact that I see bad art (eg. Mark Ryden) and don't give a shit, I see good art (eg. Cathy Wilkes) and it changes the way I think. Good/bad obviously wildly subjective!
posted by jack_mo at 10:25 AM on March 2, 2006

Helnwein and Cummings are in a totally different league to Ryden or Caesar, to my eyes anyway. Is this a whole movement/scene? All seems vaguely West Coast-ish, if that makes any sense...

Someone like Inka Essenhigh sort of fitting in with this lot, too - her paintings are on a grander scale/wider scope, similar lurid ickiness, body-oddness stuff going on, though.
posted by jack_mo at 10:41 AM on March 2, 2006

An interesting interview with Trevor Brown
posted by generic230 at 10:52 AM on March 2, 2006

I thought Helnwein was exploring the same "forbidden images" idea

Oh, totally, he's just plain better at it. (Some of the artists linked in the thread had kind of wiped my memory of Brown's work - looking again, he's doesn't just have a lighter approach, he's a lightweight.)
posted by jack_mo at 11:00 AM on March 2, 2006

Just the much needed counterbalance to the (retch) work (retch) of another profoundly unwell individual, isn't it?
posted by Laotic at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2006

I wonder if Mr. Brown has any children of his own.
posted by shino-boy at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2006

Good grief, indeed. I wouldn't have posted it to the Blue if I didn't like it; and for those whose buttocks are a-quiver at the "unwell" comment, consider this: Have you never been hanging out with a group of friends, and one of them tells a hilarious but gross joke, and you all laughed and cringed at the same time and said, "Dude, you're a sick fuck"?
posted by Gator at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2006

I don't understand art :( All I know is what amuses me and what squicks me out, and this gentleman definitely falls in the squick category, heh! It's all beautifully rendered though.
posted by zarah at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2006

Just to throw another link in, there's also Marion Peck, some of whose works I think would make fantastic murals on a nursery room wall.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2006

Interesting how comprehensively GoDaddy fucked the guy over, I certainly won't make the mistake of registering any domains with them now.
posted by The Monkey at 3:07 PM on March 2, 2006

I found out about this fellow by his illustrations for the covers of Venetian Snares albums. Art fits the music, says I.
posted by p3on at 4:01 PM on March 2, 2006

Well, I do think it's fucked-up. But I had thought I covered my "this is cool" bases by (1) sharing it with MetaFilter, and (2) the "fabulously" part.

Incidentally, Brown has a whole slew of additional interviews on his site, though they're presented in un-resizable popups that you have to "view source" on in order to read.
posted by Gator at 5:05 PM on March 2, 2006

Interesting how comprehensively GoDaddy fucked the guy over, I certainly won't make the mistake of registering any domains with them now.

posted by delmoi at 7:32 PM on March 2, 2006

Read the info page, someone stole his domain (babyart) and GoDaddy completely failed to help, smashing his business into pieces.

They even lied about ever having been registrar, lied about him having failed to renew (it hadn't actually expired) lied about his credit card declining (again, the domain hadn't expired yet) and so on.

I'd heard that some people avoid them due to their owner's political views, but it looks like it's actually more justifiable to avoid them because they're completely incompetent, or possibly even corrupt.

But I really loved the pictures, he's very skilled, even if his subject matter tends towards the sketchy.
posted by The Monkey at 9:14 PM on March 2, 2006

Yeah, that GoDaddy story is depressing. Presumably, they liked the idea of a cute-babies-oriented site better? However, the whois lookup is highly amusing, (for now).
posted by Gator at 5:58 AM on March 3, 2006

Deicide by Brown.
posted by nickyskye at 3:59 PM on March 3, 2006

What is it with the recurring rabbit theme in so much shock surrealist artwork? Lewis Carroll is the obvious answer, as the grandfather of surrealism. But his work wasn't exactly salacious, and surrealism in general doesn't seem to be as fixated on the theme.

For those that suggested "similar" artists, no shit, most of them are under his links. What's disappointing though is that he lives in Japan yet he doesn't link to many Japanese artists that have their own unique tradition of deliciously fucked up art - shunga - that no doubt inspired him and many of these acknowledged Western artists in the first place.

It seems almost criminal for him to recognize so many Western artists and yet give no links to e.g. Toshio Saeki.
posted by dgaicun at 6:40 AM on March 6, 2006

the whois lookup is highly amusing

That is priceless, bwah!
posted by zarah at 9:16 PM on March 7, 2006

Trevor is a smart, interesting guy. He should sign up to Metafilter.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:20 AM on March 19, 2006

Missed this on the first pass. (Perhaps there ARE too many newsfilter posts).
This reminds me of some John Zorn album art, though I can't place the album (or the artist). And as for quality, I'm kinda with jack_mo. While it may have been innovative at one point, it's all kinda one note, innit? There doesn't seem to be any there there.
posted by klangklangston at 5:49 AM on March 28, 2006

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