Joe Coleman (painter)

Joe Coleman (painter)

painter, illustrator and performance artist.


He was born Joseph Coleman, Jr. in Norwalk, Connecticut to a World War II-veteran father and the daughter of a professional prizefighter. He was raised Roman Catholic. Despite his mother's excommunication, she regularly took Joe to mass, a major early influence on his work. His first drawings as a child were of bleeding saints, death by fire, and stabbing.

In first grade, Coleman was placed in a class for emotionally disturbed, disabled, and retarded children. At age 10 he received an art award from Lady Bird Johnson for a drawing of garbage. At age 12, he set a fire in his elementary school yard and "confessed" to committing several murders, to a priest at Norwalk's St. Mary's Catholic Church.

Coleman briefly attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1976, but was soon expelled for refusing to paint in the abstract style.


right|300px|Cover_of_ColemanCosmic Retribution"] Coleman is best know for intricately detailed portraits of subjects both famous and infamous: artists, outlaws, serial killers, movies stars, friends, and family. He paints with a single-hair brush and uses a jewelers loupe; much of the detail is not visible to the naked eye. The majority of his portraits portray the central subject in the center of the canvas, lozenges containing biographical scenes and details from the subject's life ring the central image.

His work draws as much from Coleman's beginnings as a comic book artist as from historical precedents. His paintings are most often compared to those of Hieronymus Bosch, and his work has been exhibited alongside canvases by the Dutch master.


In 2006, Coleman had a major retrospective at New York's Jack Tilton Gallery entitled "Joe Coleman: 30 Paintings and a Selection from the Odditorium," curated by Steven Holmes. The following year he had one-man shows at two major European museums, in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo, and "Joe Coleman Internal Digging" at Berlin's KW Institut. In 2008, New York's Dickinson Gallery exhibited Coleman's work together with "Devotio Moderno: Joe Coleman/Northern Primitives" paintings by Hans Memling and other 15th century early Netherlandish painters.

ubjects portrayed

*Grover Bergdoll
*Edgar Allan Poe
*Boxcar Bertha
*Jack Black
*Albert Fish
*Harry Houdini
*Paul John Knowles
*Charles Manson
*David Owsley
*Hasil Adkins
*Carl Panzram
*Quantrill's Raiders
*Hank Williams
*Mary Bell
*Kip Kinkel
*Timothy McVeigh
*Edward Teller
*Indian Larry
*Johnny Eck
*Carlo Gesualdo
*Larry Desmedt
*Jayne Mansfield
*Mary Bell
*George Grosz
*Ed Gein
*P. T. Barnum
*Gertrude Baniszewski

Book Covers

Coleman's work has been featured on the covers of many books including:
*"Apocalypse Culture"
*"You Can't Win"
*"The Mystery of Wolverine Woo-Bait"
*"Apocalypse Culture II"
*"Under the Empire of the Birds"


His pranks — including appearing to blow himself up and medieval-style geek antics — have been documented in the "Pranks!" volume of Re/Search Books, along with the works of some of his contemporaries such as Boyd Rice.


Coleman is an avid enthusiast for weird, dark American culture and a serious collector of sideshow oddities. He's a patron of Johnny Fox's Freakatorium in New York City (where he lives) and was a supporter and good friend of the late rockabilly eccentric Hasil Adkins. He also acted in "Black Hearts Bleed Red", a 1992 film adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find", made by New York independent film director Jeri Cain Rossi, and also in "Scarlet Diva", Asia Argento's 2003 film debut as director.


*"Cosmic Retribution: The Infernal Art of Joe Coleman" by Joe Coleman (Fantagraphics, 1992, paperback, ISBN 0-922915-06-7; Feral House, 1993, hardcover, ISBN 0-922915-13-X).
*"The Man of Sorrows" by Joe Coleman (Gates of Heck, 1993, hardcover, ISBN 0-9638129-0-4; republished in 1998).
*"" by Joe Coleman, John Yau, Jim Jarmusch, Harold Schechter, and Katharine Gates (Heck Editions, 1997, paperback, ISBN 0-9638129-6-3).
*"R.I.P., Rest in Pieces: A Portrait of Joe Coleman" (1997, directed by Robert-Adrian Pejo, starring Joe Coleman and Jim Jarmusch, DVD).
*"The Book of Joe" by Joe Coleman, Anthony Haden-Guest, Katharine Gates, Asia Argento, Rebecca Lieb, and Jack Sargeant (Last Gasp/La Luz de Jesus Press, 2003, hardcover, ISBN 0-86719-578-9).
*"Muzzlers, Guzzlers, and Good Yeggs" (Fantagraphics Books, 2005, hardcover, ISBN 1-56097-628-4).

External links

* []
* [ Coleman Gets a Retrospective at the Tilton Gallery in Manhattan] in The New York Times
* [ AT HOME WITH -- Joe Coleman; Saints and Monsters] in The New York Times
*" [ Joe Coleman Puts Pain Back in Painting] " by Jan Bruun
*" [ The Horrible Happy Life of Joe Coleman] " in "Los Angeles CityBeat", 17 December 2003
* [ Official Myspace page] for "Llik your idols", a documentary about the Cinema of Transgression featuring Joe Coleman
* [ Jeri Cain Rossi's 1992 film "Black Hearts Bleed Red" starring Joe Coleman]
* [ Short piece from on Joe Coleman's role as modern day "Geek"]
* [ Interview with Joe Coleman: A Look Inside an Infernal Machine!!]
* [ Joe Coleman] in Bizarre (magazine)
* [ Joe Coleman] by Jack Sargeant in Bizarre (magazine)
* [ From the Sideshow to the Bigtop: Joe Coleman] by Rebecca Lieb in Raw Vision

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