Paging through the handsome 300-page tome American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen (Feral House), it’s easy to get caught up in the technical brilliance of the photographs, the photographer’s mastery of light and shade, and his use of innovative special effects in a still-primitive medium, before taking a step back and noticing just how disturbing that brilliantly-rendered image truly is. Many of his portraits resemble Romantic paintings, capturing moments of extreme agony and ecstasy, suggesting more than they reveal. Taken between the 1920s and 1940s and largely forgotten by the time of his death in 1965, Mortensen’s work seems entirely relevant today, in this time where blurring the lines between artistic mediums is commonplace, and we’ve become desensitized enough not to run screaming from the gallery when confronted with this stuff.
Authors Larry Lytle and Michael Moynihan will be on hand with Feral House’s Adam Parfrey to sign copies, discuss Mortensen’s work, and present a slide show. “Other special collaborators” are said to be on hand as well, so prepare for anything up to and including giant apes.
Feral House Presents: William Mortensen: American Grotesque Slide Show, Book Release & Signing Party, Friday, February 13th, 7-9pm. La Luz de Jesus Gallery / Soap Plant / Wacko, 4633 Hollywood Boulevard. www.laluzdejesus.com