Jack Brusca | Not Forgotten

We often look back on the past with a nostalgic fondness, declaring that things were "better back then" and whists there will always be progress and advancements and new forms of expression in every generation to follow, there really was an unmatched exuberance and creative output that originated from those decades...The magical, hard, sexy, excessive, hedonistic, joyful 70's and 80's.


James Rosenquist Marilyn 1974 Tate

James Rosenquist "Marilyn" 1974

There are artists from those periods that were able to capture this very essence in their works so brilliantly. A feeling as if when you view a piece it's really like immersing yourself in the exact setting in which the artist produced that work. There was no other medium that aptly expresses these periods in visual form, that when you see an airbrushed illustration you automatically are transported back to the 70’s and 80’s.


80's Airbrush art


In the 1980s airbrush art became the distinctive postmodern popular style of the decade, especially through the publication and distribution of posters and postcards, as well as in advertising. Although the 1990s saw its decline, from the late 2000s the 1980s airbrush art seems to be resurgent thanks to a new generation discovering an appreciation for a bygone era.
First pioneered during the late 1890s, airbrushing took off in the 1940s after Walt Disney began to implement the technique into his animation. By using an airbrush to create backgrounds for his animated movies, Disney could create a whole host of illumination techniques that added an extra sense of realism to these extraordinary films.


Fantasia Bald Mountain gif 1940. Walt Disney

 "Night on Bald Mountain" scene | Fantasia 1940

Soon after, airbrushing became the chosen technique in advertising, and was adopted by the ensuing hippy generation. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, airbrushed images were everywhere, from the posters of rock bands to surfboards to panel vans and was very much attributed to the Californian scene. There are many acclaimed airbrush illustrators and artists with works you would certainly know by sight if not by whom specifically.
Peter Palombi best known for his signature hyper-realistic style with heavy nostalgic nods to the 40's and 50's and very much the chosen artists for musicians and bands from the 1970s to create albums covers and general promotional art.


Peter Palombi
Peter Palombi | Left - "This is Why You're Overweight"1976 | Right - "Nates Health Foods" 1974


Charles E. White III known to always push the boundaries of imagination and creativity, his work explores realistic subjects and items and places them in this surreal dreamlike setting. White has worked with an extensive list of prominent clients across different industries and cultures and awarded as an illustrator and artist over his 3 decade career.

Charles E. White III

 Above - Charles E. White III | Images Unknown    Below - Syd Brak | Left - Long Distance Kiss. Right - Electric Kiss


Syd Brak Long Distance Kiss

Syd Brak worked as a freelance airbrush artist through the his 4 decade long career in which he worked with many clients ranging from Coke Cola, Nike, GQ and Levis just to name a few. His airbrush technique is said to define 80's poster art and is famous for this "Long Distance Kiss" piece. There are so many more to mention and deserve recognition and appreciation, but I want to bring attention to one artist in particular…Jack Brusca.

I only recently became aware of Jack Brusca one morning over breakfast before heading off to work scrolling through my news feed like the 21st century tech dependant zombie, when a cover image to a story slapped me to attention. It was a piece by Juliana Ukiomogbe for Interview called "Jack Brusca: Forgotten by the Art World, Until Now" In which Juliana interviews Fine art gallery owner and curator Daniel Cooney who recently unearthed some Brusca pieces locked away in storage for some 25+ years after his untimley death in 1993 at the age of 54 from AIDS related complications.


Jack Brusca - Self Portrait in Hospital bed with Angels 1993

Above: Jack Brusca | Self Portrait in a Hospital Bed 1993

Below: Jack Brusca | 26th & 6th 1992

Jack Brusca - 26th & 6th - 1991


Jack Brusca - The Pool and The Dance

Above: Jack Brusca | Left - The Dance    Right - The Pool 1974 


Daniel had become aware of Brusca's work when he came across them on the "Visual AIDS" website with very little history or contact information about the artist. Sufficed to say Daniel embarked on a cyber stalking journey to find out more information about Jack and any way he could contact somebody in control of his estate...Artwork archives, personal information etc. He eventually got in contact with Jack Brusca's brother Ken in Long Island who was in possession of 25-30 pieces held in a storage all these years.
Daniel states that a-lot of young gay artists (although Jack was in his early 50's at the time) who were dealing with the overwhelming prospect of death had little to no time or were not necessarily thinking how best to plan their estates. In Jack's case his works were left to his family and they, dealing with their great loss felt it best to keep them safe in storage.
"Promoting someone’s work after they’ve died is a full-time job. For the family, it’s sometimes very traumatic. Keeping it safe is an act of bravery in itself”. Said Daniel.


Jack Brusca - Manhattan 1991

Jack Brusca | Manhattan 1991 


28 years after Jacks Brusca's death a new exhibition of his forgotten work and new appreciation of an illustrative artist is taking place at the eponymous gallery, and with good reason for to view Jacks work really does take you to this "Time and Place”.  The way in which he manipulates letters, numbers and flowers in some of his abstract pieces or the almost surrealist and somewhat voyeuristic figurative subjects. The ability to reimagine ordinary things, people, scenarios is unique to some and to Jack this seemed second nature. Like he was living in this neon world where everything was this blend of colour and had this surreal sense of spatial dimension and was bathed in this theatrical light.

Jack Brusca -  Summer in the city 1990, Night Work 1990, Copa Girls 1990 

Jack Brusca | Left: Summer In The City 1990.  |  Centre: Night Work 1990.  |  Right: Copa Girls 1990 


Beck 1986 & A Day With Dad 1990 - Jack Brusca

Jack Brusca | Left: Beck 1986.   |   Right: A Day With Dad 1990


Although Jacks career was cut short he seemed to just be on the cusp of enjoying great critical and commercial success. He created acclaimed sets and costumes for the Alvin Ailey Dance theatre in NYC and Bejart Ballet in Brussels swell as the interiors and logo design for legendary dance club “The Pavilion” in Fire Island Pines. He also designed jewellery with Partner Joseph Dante under the name “Brusca Dante”, best known for their bold modernist sterling silver pieces.


Brusca Dante Sterling Silver Jewellery

Above: Brusca Dante | Assorted Pieces mainly of the "Zoo" series 1974


Brusca’s work is home in collections of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, The Queens Museum, The Chrysler Museum of Art and various prestigious private collection internationally.

Jack Brusca - Paintings 1975-1993 is currently showing at Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery from November 4th - December 18th.


Jack Brusca Image


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