The United Talent Agency showcased several visual artists at the Third Seattle Art Fair from August 3 to 6. Their “Artist Space” featured works from. They also exhibited paintings and sketches from an artist not known for his paintings and sketches: Kurt Cobain.
The Art Showcased
Cobain is largely remembered as the frontman, chief songwriter, and guitarist of Nirvana. However, he also painted in his spare time and had several notebooks’ worth of doodles, drawings, and even comics. UTA displayed selections from some of these notebooks at the art event, as well as two paintings never seen before.
Well, sorta never-before-seen: they presented the original canvas for the cover of Incesticide, a compilation album of B-sides and outtakes. It features what VICE’s music imprint Noisey calls “a doll-like creature clinging to an alien-like creature,” holding a poppy flower (at the time, Cobain had a heroin addiction). The other one went unnamed in the text of most articles, but could only be his acrylic oil painting Fistula. I’m confident in this because Rolling Stone described this other painting as featuring “a distorted, expressionistic figure that can be likened to Edvard Munch.”
Many will find these paintings weird, and even disturbing. After all, this is the same mind behind songs like “Rape Me and Territorial Pissings.” These paintings have a similar dark humor and raw emotion to their grotesque renderings of the human body. Regardless, as with his music, these artworks provide some insight into a unique mind and a troubled soul.
The Cobain Family’s Artists
Artistry seems to run in the family. As a child, Kurt Cobain received plenty of encouragement for his doodles from his grandmother Iris, herself a painter. Just this past June, Gallery 30 South in Los Angeles exhibited watercolors by Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain. She sold all of them. (And if you ask me, their art styles don’t seem that different).
This is partly why the UTA Artist Space listed this artwork as not for sale. Joshua Roth, director of UTA’s new Fine Arts department, told The New York Times, “It’s too hard to put a price on them. They’re very special to the family.” Nirvana superfans will find much value in Cobain’s art, but it has an entirely different worth to his loved ones.
The other reason is that this exhibit is just the beginning of something greater. Roth claims that UTA plans to “create a touring exhibition that really tells the story of who Kurt was through artworks, personal artifacts, and memorabilia …” Time will tell what comes of this, though a biopic appears to be in the works.
The excitement over this showcase is clear proof that 23 years after his suicide, Cobain’s art still resonates and fascinates.