A gorgeous art book that also tells the unbelievable story of Joseph Baqué, a police officer and secretive artist who created 1500 imaginary creatures during the fascist era in Spain (1930s-60s) and told not a soul about them during his lifetime. Part Medieval-style bestiary, part natural history treatise, this remarkable body of work by Joseph Baqué came to the public's attention only in 2011.
With this book, author Brian Chidester has penned the first-ever critical biography of this enigmatic creator and of his strange, whimsical creations. Threading 20th century art history, Spain's fascist era, and what record there is of Baqué's personal life, Chidester presents a full picture of one of the most fascinating "outsider art" careers of the 20th century. Grouped into nine distinct taxonomies - wild beasts, primitive men, bats, insects, giant spiders, snakes, cephalopods, crustaceans, birds, and fish - each creature is placed against a blank white backdrop and surrounded by a pencil-drawn square box.
Despite setting up his creatures as species classifications instead of individual characters, the artist imbued each with an individualistic personality and self-awareness. They often gaze outward, perform as if on display, and even feel around for possible ways out of their aesthetic cage - which speaks to Baqué's visual fondness for carnival posters and freak show banners of the era. Collectively they represent a rich visual imagination at odds with the conformist political climate in which he created them.
Brian Chidester is an art historian, author, documentarian, and journalist. Exhibitions he has curated include: One Day You'll See: A History of Afrofuturism and Charles A.A. Dellschau and the Mythology of Flight. He is a contributor of articles and reviews for The American Prospect, The Atlantic, L.A. Weekly, Paste, and The Village Voice, and is the author of Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film, and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Era (Santa Monica Press). Chidester has also been a writer/researcher/producer of documentaries for the BBC, PBS, and Showtime, and is the director of the feature-length film As the Wind: The Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez. He lives in New York City.