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  • Rob Will

Archetype of the Mad-Mad Artist

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

The True and Shocking Confessions of a Radical Yogic-Buddhist Hippy Gangster

O.G. Artist: An Historical Psychosociopolitical Opera Seria in Nine Movements

(Featuring Solo Performances)

“The painting, like the perception it produces, is hallucinatory by nature.

The hallucination abnormal as it may seem, is the essence of our mental life.

- Hippolyte Taine

Max Ernst once wrote to Franz Roh, that his intention behind juxtaposing contrasting and variant visual elements into new and innovative contexts was to “generate an electric or erotic tension. The result was discharges of high tension currents. And the more unexpected the elements brought together [e.g., gun barrel, beetle mimicry, lace petticoat] the more surprising were the sparks of poetry that leapt the gap.”

With the paintings and drawings that I do – which should more properly be called events, social sculpture, actions, happenings – I tend to express the intricacies of the energy of various elements and through this juxtaposition, allow these energetic currents to flow and merge. Sometimes there is a disparate tension in play but it always leads to a harmonious rhythm, a musical sensation and composition that transcends the confines of poetic collage.

Discarded and seemingly trivial items become relics of sacred importance. Mundane scraps are elevated to the status of psychosociopolitical weaponry. Inner and outer realms are explored and recorded as visions and history. (Or perhaps a history of visions?)

The Mad-Mad Artist pieces – which now total 9 – represent months and years’ worth of intercommunalist learning, meditative mind adventures and indeed constitute an entire

Opera Seria of Life... The lives of individuals but also the life of a collective community as I have known it for almost 20 years – a community on the inside but also one that stretches beyond into countries all over the world.

Much of the time I draw and paint in a type of musical trance-like state. There is much theory and conceptualization involved, but I find attempts at translating these dynamics into verbal terms nearly impossible. However, perhaps some quick remarks on this series of paintings can give some context:

The initial seed of an idea for these pieces started some time before I began them. One of my neighbors, D-Loc, showed me some rough sketches a friend of his did while travelling on a train from Istanbul to Helsinki. One of these sketches was of a picture of him taken at visitation (which you can see in the upper left hand corner of Act I).

This little sketch sparked a series of wide-ranging conversations that included a lot of discussion on how we have essentially created our own culture in this wretched hell. D-Loc and I have known each other for almost seventeen years and have experienced much together (along with others we have known). These pieces are, in part, a chronicle of this, but they reach beyond individual interactions into the realm of the archetype of the artist – and particularly the “mad artist” – in relation to history, society and culture. I utilized the rough sketch and developed my own visual version of this archetype.

For these pieces I invited “solo performances” of various individuals, both on the inside and out in the free world. I utilized items on these drawings from Germany, France, Spain, England, The Netherlands and the United States cities of Memphis, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Houston and Austin.

The little dark rectangular abstract areas on the bottom and top right of Act I are a little painting that an artist mailed me (that I cut in half). I heard a radio interview with this artist that I found quite inspiring. I wrote her a letter and four years later she sent me a nice note with the little painting. She had kept my letter for four years.

On the top of the one piece on the left is a Ferdinard Botero stamp sent to me from France. On top of the piece on the right I pasted a quote from Gandhi that D-Loc sent me. Between that and the sketch is an area that I asked a guy here, Tankzilla, to hit up. On the bottom left corner is a picture of me and D-Loc at visitation…

Really, the multi-dimensional visual elements of these pieces transcend – and indeed defy – attempts at verbal explanation. A few more things of interest though: I had individuals of various backgrounds and even rival gang affiliations hit up these pieces with a few positive sentences: I did this simply as a statement on the power of art to surpass and overcome boundaries – but also know that we all had many “teach in” style conversations over the several months it took me to complete these paintings.

The repeated bold blue P pattern on Part I are strips from the wrapping on a roll of toilet paper. I never appreciated the awesome power and beauty of toilet paper until I was tear-gassed, beaten up by the SWAT team, and left naked in a cell for days and days with absolutely nothing.  If you look closely at Act III, you will see a little piece of paper pasted next to Andy Warhol. The paper glued next to the King of Pop Art is from Spain made in the year 1608.

At the risk of seeming… hallucinatory, I will include below some notes that I wrote on these pieces: (Feel free to stop reading here if you wish to avoid such nonsensical rambling!)

Act I

The Nietzschean Metamorphic Lion


•             Young O.G. Tankzilla on creeping chaos god hip-hop beat machine and drums

•             Stephanie G. on abstract spoken word poetry as expressed through visual art

•             Unknown European white woman on saxophone

•             A.K. from the Netherlands on Jean-Michel Basquiat Color Theory trumpet

•             N.A. from France on Fernando Botero Art history keyboard

•             Mohandas Gandhi (via D-Loc) on 8 Limbs of Yoga Mantras

•             S. from Germany on Nietzschean-Schopenhauerinian background ambience

Act II

The Nietzschean Metamorphic Camel


•             Herman Hesse on Siddhartha & Demian depth psychology string quartet

•             Jimi Hendrix on guitar (what else?!)

•             Hermes Trismegistus (Thoth) on “Know Thyself!” sax

•             J.H. from Tennessee on world encompassing Memphis blues guitar

•             G.G on Cuban brass section


The Nietzschean Metamorphic Child


•             A.K. from the Netherlands on Andy Warhol pop synthesizer

•             K.B. from Austin on radical socialist-feminist Punk Rock vocals

•             Sistah Girl from San Antonio on revolutionary life-saving tribal drums

•             D. from Houston on aesthetic photo violin

•             J.M. from Philly on yogic sitar & kirtan

•             K.F. on spoken word poetry

•             T.M. from England on heavy metal guitar and gothic cello

•             E. from Argentina on 1608 Spanish guitar

Act IV

An Art Attack Art O.G. Encore

(The Twenty Second Arcana of the Tarot: The Fool)


•             Ice T on woodwind section transliteration

•             Osiris on Egyptian esoteric Ka instrumentation

•             Maria Brink on rock goddess metal vocals, drums and guitar (with In This Moment)

•             Tupac Amaru Shakur on spoken word Thug Life Jazz interlude

•             L.D. on anti-Trumpian Intercommunalist guerrilla Fela Kuti-esque African rock band.

Act V

An After Part Remix


Acts VI-IX



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