Life Arts

Set The Raygun to "Stun": Dennis Larkins' Startling Art

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Detail of Startling Art book cover by Dennis Larkins

Dennis Larkins' staggering output of artwork ranges from "lowbrow" pop surrealism paintings to stage design for rock concerts to his legendary series of Grateful Dead posters.

'Startling Art' book cover by Dennis Larkins

His newly released "Startling Art: Revealing the Art of Dennis Larkins" (2010, Last Gasp) is a wickedly fun romp through four decades of his unique, retro-kitsch mix of audacious archetypes, savvy satire and engaging images of vintage paraphernalia.

Bone Boy/Bone Toy by Dennis Larkins

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

If your elementary school education included diving under your desk for "duck and cover" drills, you'll feel right at home in Larkins' Atomic Age world of shiny-faced salesmen, high-heeled housewives, and vehicles of mass attraction.

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His humor slithers along the scale from light to dark as he breathes mature life into his growing-up-in-the-50's visions. Vintage trains, planes, and automobiles join flying saucers, little green men, skeletons and explosives in his sci-fi- and pulp- inspired settings.

Grateful Dead Poster: Radio City Music Hall Illus. by Dennis Larkins by c. D. Larkins/P. Barsotti/GDP used with permission

Grateful for the Dead

Early in his career, Larkins was in the right place at the right time to be invited to create artwork for the Grateful Dead, including his well known--and now, highly collectible--Grateful Dead Radio City Poster (1980). Among the other art Larkins created for the group is the "Dead Set" album cover. The front of the cover featured Larkins' iconic Grateful Dead skeleton, Sam, surveying the Golden Gate Bridge; the back of the cover showed his counterpart, Samantha, looking over the Manhattan skyline.

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Dead Set Album Cover (front) designed by Dennis Larkins

Dead Set album art 1981 illus. by Dennis Larkins, c. GDP by Dennis Larkins

When the New York Historical Society mounted a Grateful Dead show in early 2010, they commissioned Larkins to design their poster, 35 years after creating his first artwork for the group.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing for over 25 years. She studied art with Harold Ransom Stevenson in Sea Cliff NY for seven years before opening her own art school. Stevenson had (more...)

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The writing does the art more than justice, and vi... by GLloyd Rowsey on Saturday, Oct 2, 2010 at 11:24:32 PM
;-)And, like, I TOTALLY did not, like, know , um, ... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 12:55:33 AM
If only our children were taught Larkins' work as ... by John Reed on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 5:15:29 AM
the bard's great quote, LOL!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 10:06:26 AM
Quite an enexpected treat to find this at OpEd - w... by mrk * on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 8:25:33 AM
I'm so glad to have added a bit 'o spice to your m... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 10:12:07 AM
but I think I like "Car Trouble" with the dinosaur... by GLloyd Rowsey on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 8:33:44 AM
to choose more than one favorite!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 10:23:00 AM
but artists do not lie.:-)... by GLloyd Rowsey on Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 at 10:27:27 AM