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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Joseph Arthur’s artwork “#5” is featured in the main gallery at Montpelier Arts Center through Oct. 27.
Published on: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
By Wanda Jackson
American singer, songwriter and painter Joseph Arthur has built his reputation over the years through critically-acclaimed music recordings and constant touring throughout the U.S. and other countries.
Earlier this month, Arthur headlined a musical performance at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. Billed as “alternative rock,” Arthur’s trademark multi-layered soundscapes were complex and nuanced, offering a mix of folk, nouveau R&B and Memphis influences.
If you missed that performance, there is still time to view some of Arthur’s artwork.
Photo by Wanda Jackson. Joseph Arthur, seated left, shares his experiences as an artist with viewers during Montpelier’s Artist Talk.
Through Oct. 27, 39 of his paintings are being displayed in “Joseph Arthur,” a self-titled exhibit in Montpelier’s main gallery.
His works are exquisite pleasures, a combination of insight and delight that simultaneously nourishes and challenges the mind.
“I make art which reveals secret selves or secrets of the self,” Arthur wrote in his artist statement. “By being deeply personal I attempt to find something universal. To uncover the truth of what we are beneath the flesh and form, to commune with spirit in organic swirls and drive at the electricity expanding us all. Unconscious action or truth in movement, I want something beyond myself.”
In a style similar to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Arthur’s work might catch modern art lovers off guard.
At first sight, some of Arthur’s works might feel like a crash course on modern art given by a scholarly, “club kid.”
It appears expressionistic and graphically wild in palettes of black, white, reds, blues and yellows. The works are musical and exhibit a fearlessness of having been created by someone who has decided to go for it, so to speak, as an artist.
“Nearly unrivaled among his peers,” one critic says that Arthur’s “integrity and knack for seeing the light through the gloom are the origins from which all of his artistry flows, be it musical or in paint.”
His musical artistry — poetic lyrics with a layered, sonic palette — won over famous friends like Peter Gabriel, who discovered and signed him to Real World records in the mid-1990s.
Fast forward to today and you will discover that Arthur has his own record label, “Lonely Astronaut Records.”
In June, he released his 10th studio album, titled “The Ballad of Boogie Christ,” to good reviews. Arthur has appeared on late night talk shows like Letterman and been featured in numerous media including Billboard Magazine. In November, he will perform at Carnegie Hall.
His onstage performances add an extra layer to his unique paintings.
Many of his works grace the sleeves of his discography, including the sleeve design for his 1999 extended play (EP) titled Vacancy, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
In 2007, Arthur set up his own personal art gallery, The Museum of Modern Arthur, and has exhibited in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto, Hong Kong and Bielefeld, Germany.