The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora (2007) contains fine art works that were unknown when The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora was published (2004). The contents of the second book are every bit as fun, grotesque and playful -- in some cases, more so -- than the devilish delights of the first book.
When Flora died in 1998, his family gathered his artistic estate and secured it in a storage facility. In late 2005, the heirs allowed Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon access to the vault. What they discovered were "lost works" -- "lost" because fans of Flora's LP covers, kid-lit, and Mischievous Art offerings have never seen most of these eye-boggling treasures, which include paintings, watercolors, sketches, woodcuts and all manner of artistic genius.
Flora was prolific in his commercial work; he created art privately in equal measure -- and often with more fiendish pleasure. His style is cartoonish, evoking childhood nostalgia and dereliction of adult responsibility. There are clowns and kitty cats, grinning faces and beaming suns. But Flora did not restrain his darker impulses. His montages are crammed with bullets and knives and fang-baring snakes. Muggers run amok, demons frolic with rouged harlots, and Flora's characters suffer -- that is, are afflicted by the artist with -- severe disfigurement. The banal and the violent often coexist within inches of each other on the canvas.
The book also contains a wealth of 1940s Columbia Records printed matter exhibiting Flora's visual pranks; 1950s RCA Victor-era work; magazine illos, sketchbooks, and prints; 1930s Little Man Press-era drawings; paintings from all decades; photos, and personal keepsakes. Flora's early 1940s musician portraits in Columbia bulletins are raucous and undignified, featuring piss-takes on such legends as Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, and Gene Krupa. Flora once said he "could not do likenesses" -- so he conjured outlandish caricatures. His comic grotesqueries echoed, and in many cases foreshadowed, the 1950s Harvey Kurtzman-era MAD magazine, as well as the underground comix of the late 1960s.
Flora once said that all he wanted to do was "create a little piece of excitement." He overshot his goal with many of these works.