Once you have witnessed the dark, sensational visions of Joel-Peter Witkin, you will never be the same again. Witkin gets to you. Here you will encounter hermaphrodites, malformed bodies, Siamese twins, corpses, fetuses, cut-off heads, and self-torturers. Witkin's compositions go far beyond conventional "freak show" tableaux to achieve a sinister and dignified beauty, and he includes numerous art-historical references that add context and acerbic wit. This exquisitely produced collection of black-and-white photographs will take you, as Guy Blaisdell writes in an essay at the end of the book, into "a human afterworld ... one that comes before or after the death of this world--a place where the spirits of the dead live on by sitting as works of art for their portraits, descending into our moment and returning always to their identical selves." Warning: Not for those under 18 and/or easily disturbed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Gods of Heaven and Earth, Dec 24, 2022
If one were to draw an imaginary line through the last two hundred years, starting with Goya and the Disasters of War, perhaps pausing briefly with Daumier and then moving resolutely to the trenches of the first world war, some of the lithographs of George Bellows, Otto Dix and Grosz. And if that imaginary line were to pick up the expressionist thread again in Mexico, most particularly with Orozco and Jose Luis Cuevas then I think that Witkin, rather than a shocking purveyor of disturbing images can be seen as the latest -and one of the finest- inheritors of a very solid and well-grounded strand in the history of Western Art.
Sometimes he is even very funny, as when, very conscious of academic art, he mimics Velasquez and Ingres, but then Goya could be very funny, too. Usually however Witkin is about as funny as Goya's impalements or as the trench war lithographs of Otto Dix.
Definitely not a book for the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything crowd" If you like your expressionism with a bite, this is great stuff. If you prefer tame, decorative expressionism there's always Maurice Sendak.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
photography from the underside, Apr 17, 2023
o pushing the role of the photographer as one who photographs the poor, the odd, the strange, the perverse, the sexual underworld in the tradition of Weegee, Arbus, etc.o pushing the adaptation of famous works of art in the past into modern pieces. o and if you can't stomach what you find, you should at least be able to appreciate the quality of the photo-manipulation. o one image from this book seems to have been used in the movie Jacob's Ladder.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Dark and totally twisted photos of abberations of nature..., Dec 13, 2022
Joel Peter Witkin's images are what nightmares are made of...a cast of freaks, standing up...looking through you. We are here, don't pity or humiliate us...we are not nightmares...we are all creatures of heaven and earth