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The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora

AAJ Staff By

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Irwin Chusid, Jim Flora
The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora
Fantagraphics Books
2004
ISBN: 1560976004

Back in the day when album covers had an impact on music-buying decisions and didn't require a magnifying glass, Jim Flora, as described by this book's author, "wreaked havoc with the laws of physics .

The book is conveniently divided into basically five beautifully displayed sections of Flora's illustrative career, from his '40s and '50s Columbia and RCA-Victor album covers (the bulk of his renowned artwork) to his creations for Coda publications and Little Man Press (the first ever re-printing of these fabled illustrations) and a final section featuring his varied commercial work.

Though Flora knew each musician's style, most of the time he'd design covers without having himself even heard a single note of an impending release beforehand! His signature style overshadowed much of the music found therein and certainly suggested the music of the more experimental '60s era, which was still decades away, than the mainstream, Swing and Dixieland jazz his musical figures and shapes accompanied. His psychedelic and playful jazz caricatures and noodle-y warped instruments graced album covers by Gene Krupa, The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Kid Ory and others, exciting the imagination before the needle even dropped. Ironic, too, that with all the bright color combinations Flora used, he was partially color-blind. Around the time of rock 'n roll's emergence, however, album cover art design shifted towards photographs. Flora became a distinguished kid's book author/artist.

Perhaps JD King (illustrator, musician and writer with obvious Flora influences) sums up Jim Flora's style best: "He was the start of an illustration style that took the modernism of painters Miro, Klee and Picasso, blended it with a jazz sensibility and added a dollop of the Sunday pages .

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