Burt Shonberg is one of the best-kept secrets in the art world.
But his art, having only ever been exhibited once before in a solo exhibition in Los Angeles in 1967, is about to be re-introduced to the world some 50 years later by historian, curator, and longtime Shonberg advocate Brian Chidester at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick in Cleveland Ohio. The exhibition opens on August 17, 2021, and will be accompanied by the first-ever catalog of Shonberg's works.
Brian says.. "..Shonberg was too strange for even the '60s California sci-fi world, and too far removed from the fine art establishment, to be embraced by either. Even today, when radical viewpoints are commonplace in the art world, Shonberg has yet to receive recognition. Meanwhile, a unique body of work remains hidden in plain sight."
Have a look at some of the works in the exhibition and a selection of other works by the artist.
The catalog will be available through the Buckland Museum upon the exhibition's opening, which runs from August 17th - November 1st, 2021.
More info: bucklandmuseum.org
A 1954 Watercolor Made By Burt Shonberg When The Artist Was 21 Years Old. Curator Brian Chidester Has Referred To This Work As The Artist's Earliest Known Masterpiece
Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick director Steven Intermill said, "Shonberg has taken root in my brain, his beautiful creations moving in and making themselves home somewhere near my pineal gland. .. When gazing upon it I see cosmic forms of animism, the idea of every atom in the universe having its own soul and own universe within.."
Born on March 30, 1933, in Revere, MA, Burt Shonberg studied art in the fifties at the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts and later at the Los Angeles Art Center. His interests were in the occult, UFOs, science fiction, and horror movies, particularly the Frankenstein monster, whom the artist considers something of an alter-ego.
Burt Shonberg Title Unknown 1960 Casein On Panel
Burt Shonberg Painting, No Date
He gained acclaim in L.A. primarily for his mural paintings which adorned popular Los Angeles coffeehouses.
During his lifetime, Shonberg was associated with the artist/occultist Marjorie Cameron, who probably introduced him to the mythos of Aleister Crowley and the ceremonial use of peyote.
Shonberg later participated in 1960 in the experiments of Dr. Oscar Janiger, an experimental psychiatrist and professor at the University of California Irvine, on the effects of LSD on the creative mind. Approximately 100 artists, including renowned figures such as Anais Nin, Aldous Huxley, Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, Andre Previn, James Coburn, also participated in the study.
Exterior Of Cafe Frankenstein By Burt Shonberg, Laguna Beach California Exterior Of Cafe Frankenstein, Photograph By Doris I. Walker May 1961
Burt Shonberg "Mars The God Of War" 1964
Shonberg’s art was prominently used in Roger Corman’s classic films "The House of Usher" and "The Premature Burial" in the early 1960s.
Shonberg’s art gained the attention of Roger Corman around 1958 when Roger commissioned Shonberg to create ancestral portraits for his high-profile film version of Edgar Allan Poe’s "House of Usher" (1960) starring Vincent Price. Afterward, Shonberg contributed his artwork to Roger Corman's film "Premature Burial" (1962), also based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Burt Shonberg Title Unknown Circa 1958 - 1960 Casein On Panel 32 X 50 Inches. This Is Most Likely A Portrait Of Shonberg's Partner At The Time The Well Known Artist And Occultist Marjorie Cameron
Burt Shonberg Painting Date Unknown (Illegible, Possibly 1965)
Roger Corman wrote for the exhibition catalog: "As two artists moving into new modes of expression in our work, our introduction was fortuitous. His preoccupation with monsters, aliens, the occult, and other horror elements in his art resonated with me. Most importantly, I could see he was a major talent exploring new ground in form and color. I knew right away that Burt’s artistic sensibilities would lend much to my new film.."
Hampton Fancher, the screenwriter of "Blade Runner" and "Blade Runner 2049", commented, “Wish I could offer up a decisive comment, but it was such a special time and he was such a unique and special person, and what he did was so far out, it deserves more than I have the time to do justice to.” Fancher and Shonberg were close friends and roommates.
Burt Shonberg "Edith" 1958 Casein On Panel 48 X 48 Inches
Burt Shonberg Drawing Made For Gamma Magazine Vol 1 No 2 1963
The artist was also close friends with Marshall Berle, who at the time was manager of the band SPIRIT (and later Little Richard and an emerging Van Halen) said, "Burt Shonberg was more than just an artist, he was a “prospector of consciousness” who traveled to areas outside of our collective awareness and painted what he saw during those excursions." Marshall also produced an astonishing documentary on the artist titled "Out Here."
In 1958 Shonberg, along with folk singer Doug Meyers and screenwriter George Clayton Johnson (Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Kung Fu and co-author of Logan's Run), opened a beatnik coffee house in Laguna Beach called "CAFE FRANKENSTEIN," which caused controversy as it displayed a stained glass-like depiction of the Frankenstein monster on its exterior which conservative locals found blasphemous.
Burt Shonberg "Earth Child" 1961
Painting By Burt Shonberg From The Collection Of Ringo Starr
When the cafe was sold a few years later, Shonberg paid a debt to George Clayton Johnson with a group of his best works of that period. These works were bequeathed to his children and acquired through a patron and are exhibited for the first time at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick.
The works in this exhibition straddle the time when Shonberg was avidly using peyote and when he began experimenting with LSD, culminating in the centerpiece of the exhibition, whose title is unknown but referred to as Lucifer in the Garden of Eden (also elsewhere titled "Magic Landscape") produced in 1961 when Burt was well into his LSD usage.
Painting By Burt Shonberg From The Collection Of Ringo Starr
Front And Back Cover Of "Out Here" Album By Love By Burt Shonberg
"There is an intention to Shonberg’s vision and a community that supported it and shared in its possibilities. It is hard to understand because our eyes and frame of reference have been honed to a specific image of what art should be – what is acceptable, what is tasteful, and how artists should act. Look away from that, and there is a multitude of alternatives to which audiences today demand access. They want to know how artists opened up new doors and what it looks like through those portals. " - Robert Cozzolino, Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings, Minneapolis Institute of Art.