American Gothic: The Art of Carlos Batts

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128 pgs. | 8.5″x12″

Madness and genius collide in American Gothic, photographer-filmmaker-artist Carlos Batts’ answer to Grant Wood’s famous 1930 portrait of the same name: that granite-faced, pitchfork-totin’ embodiment of what this country was three-quarters of a century ago. America in 2005 is a very different matter. Fuse Romare Bearden with Man Ray, and you might come close to Batts’ vivisection of America’s diseased soul. In 128 pages of experimental photography and mixed-media, Batts tortures the negative itself to bring forth frenzied, expressionistic hybrids of horror and beauty. Published in softback and limited edition slipcase editions by Baltimore’s Scapegoat Publishing, American Gothic is Batts’ third book and the one most reflective of the artist himself. To be certain, Batts’ previous efforts for the German publisher Edition Reuss, Wild Skin and Crazy Sexy Hollywood, were distinguished by a unique, readily-identifiable style, one that’s proved immensely popular here and overseas. But in both books there is always the sense that the artist is giving us exactly what we as voyeurs want. American Gothic, on the other hand, is Batts’ pure, unadulterated artistic vision, one not tweaked for the mass-market or meant to satisfy bourgeois tastes.

Batts’ work is well-known in the worlds of rock, fetish and fashion and admired by discerning, risk-taking gallerist, such as Merry Karnowsky of Los Angeles’ Merry Karnowsky Gallery. However, with American Gothic, Batts is bursting onto the art scene with a tour de force reminiscent of when Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano first shook the world with their controversial imagery. Following in the photographic footsteps of these innovators, Batts has created an oeuvre impossible to ignore, one that burrows into your cranium and devours your preconceptions of what art and photography are all about. Like seeing a David Lynch film for the first time or a painting by Egon Schiele, the tectonic plates of the possible will shift as you leaf through this book. Afterwards, nothing will be the same. Here is the yardstick by which to measure art. Here is the birth of the new.

Contains a full-length compact disc by musicians: Mastodon, Pg. 99, Swarm of the Lotus, Pig Destroyer, Dog Fashion Disco, Radiation 4, Daybreak, Buzzoven, Agoraphobic Nosebleed.


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