Don Van Vliet: Paintings and Poems (Softcover) 1st Edition, 2007. Softcover, unpaginated with 32 color illustrations. Title: Don Van Vliet: Paintings and Poems. Publisher: Michael Werner and Anton Kern Gallery.Condition: VG condition, crisp clean pages, w/ minor shelf wear/rubbing mostly contained to the back cover (see photos). In 1982 Captain Beefheart became Don Van Vliet again. Perhaps his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, publicly confirmed years later, also played a role.
Though some maybe thought that he gave up music to take up painting, Van Vliet had always painted, drawn and sculpted, even before writing his brilliantly angular compositions. So he really only gave up music to focus even more on the art that he had always done. Early exhibits date back to 1972, well into the heydays of The Magic Band.Even in childhood his parents cultivated his artistic abilities. Music, in fact, seems to have interrupted his art career. He probably kept painting until he no longer could. Supposedly, his final years were spent bed bound. Around 1993, in an interview on Dutch radio he said it hurt to do pretty much anything. But he kept on painting until the end of the twentieth century. The latest pieces date around 1997. Van Vliet died in 2010 with paintings still hanging on gallery walls. The Michael Werner Gallery in New York held numerous Van Vliet shows from the 1980s onward. They published catalogs for at least two of these exhibits. One, a small yellow book, dates from 1991.
A second much larger green book dates 2007, making it one of his last shows, if not the last show, before his death. This green book contains large full color pictures of Van Vliet's work.
It provides one of the best available views of his paintings for those who can't make it to New York or to other galleries known to display his creations. Though only about 50 pages long, the pages are large and the reproductions are of the highest quality.Great titles such as "Rolled Roots Gnarled Like Rakers" and "Fur on the Trellis and Just Up into the Air" display the fervent wordplay Van Vliet utilized as Beefheart. The paintings all tend toward the murkily abstract. Blobs and gobs of paint roll like poked billowing armadillos into evocative subconscious landscapes. Some of them see as dreams.
The painted people often look elongated, distorted or contorted as if seen while regaining consciousness following a sharp blow to the head or through a pane of glass with water dribbling over it. Many come to life upon reflection or after prolonged gazing. Some of the shapes may seem familiar, but in different ways to different people. This is what abstract art does best. Three facsimiles of Van Vliet's handwritten poems appear before the paintings.
A frontispiece shows Van Vliet's distantly staring face emerging from a thick cigar smoke haze. The book contains very little text apart from the poems and a short dedication by Polly Jean Harvey.All paintings are listed in the back with dates, dimensions and medium, typically oil on canvas. A short biography tells us that Van Vliet lives and works in Trinidad, California. This book remains a beautiful testament to the work he did do later in life. And until someone releases a retrospective or survey of Van Vliet's oeuvre, it will stand as one of few known resources for observing and analyzing his paintings. Time may indeed tell, but it doesn't always.