World of Art Showcase, Morpheus Gallery, James Cowan
The World of Art Showcase (www.worldofartshowcase.com) invites the Morpheus Gallery (www.morpheusgallery.com), a renowned online venue dedicated to art books and works from prominent surreal and fantastique artists, to exhibit at its inaugural event at the Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22, 2012.
Created and directed by James Cowan, the Gallery (the primary aspect of Morpheus Fine Art) opened a brick and mortar location in Beverly Hills, Calif. from 1995-2002 but has run exclusively as an online outlet and fine art book publisher since then. Starting with its first artist H.R. Giger (also a participant at the World of Art Showcase), the Morpheus Gallery currently features some of the world's top imaginative painters in the surreal/fantastic genres—including Zdzislaw Beksinski, Jacek Yerka, De Es Schwertberger, Wayne D. Barlowe, Judson Huss, Gerard Di-Maccio, Viktor Safonkin, Dariusz Zawadzki and Piotr Naliwajko. Additionally, Morpheus publishes and represents Jota Leal, the master transformative portraitist who will be exhibiting, as well.
"We originally contacted James because we were excited about the possibility of featuring the work of Giger at our first event,” says World of Art Showcase Executive Director Mario Parga. "When we looked at more of the artists in the Morpheus Gallery, we realized that they were doing exciting things in the fantastic/surreal genre and thought it would be a wonderful idea to have the gallery exhibit so these artists' works would have the opportunity to connect with our patrons. James has a global clientele but is based here in Vegas, which makes this a perfect match.”
Cowan uses the term "painterly” when he describes the high quality classical painting approach taken by all of the artists whose work he represents. He has a simple response to the question of why the Morpheus Gallery exclusively features artists in this niche genre: "That's the style I personally like, and this genre of art has not been given enough contemporary attention despite the fact that historically, great artists like (15th Century Dutch painter) Hieronymous Bosch, (Spanish Romantic painter) Francisco Goya and Salvador Dalí have delved into it.”
In addition to selling high end painting from its featured artists, the Morpheus Gallery publishes limited edition prints and lithographs. Since publishing its first high quality large format book showcasing the work of Giger, the gallery has published 15 widely distributed books dedicated to its artists. Three years ago, Cowan launched Morpheus Fine Watches (www.morpheuswatches.com), an offshoot company creating and selling high end watches, some (but not all) of which are based on the work of some of the Morpheus artists. Among its current offerings are the Culinary Watch for chefs, the Passagen Watch (a series inspired by Giger's industrial paintings) and The Cinema Watch for lovers of the art of cinema. The later watches are fully custom and Swiss made.
"Oscar Wilde once said, 'if you cannot be a work of art, you must wear one,'” Cowan says.
A little history of fantastic art which has driven the success of the Morpheus Gallery: its parameters have been rigorously defined in the scholarship on the subject ever since the 19th century Fantastic art explores fantasy, the imagination, the dream state, the grotesque, and visions of pure whimsy. Most great artists have contributed to the genre, if not specifically focused on it.
Surreal visual art grew out of a cultural movement that developed out of the Dada avant-garde movement during World War I and the most important center of the movement was in Paris. From the 1920s on, the movement spread around the world, affecting the visual arts, literature, film and music, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy and social theory. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur. Sigmund Freud's work with free association, dream analysis and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy while rejecting the idea of underlying madness. Dalí once explained it as: "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.” Art of the fantastic has some resonance with the surreal, but is not specifically that in most cases.