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October 16, 2012

Drew Struzan unveils Universal monster portraits for Mondo show

Posted in: Movies

unimonsterscard final online Drew Struzan unveils Universal monster portraits for Mondo show

Mondo, the collectible art division of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, will feature the iconic "Universal Monsters" for its next gallery show, which runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 10. (Mondo)

creature taylor Drew Struzan unveils Universal monster portraits for Mondo show

Ken Taylor's movie poster for "Creature from the Black Lagoon," part of the Mondo exhibit. (Mondo)

Drew Struzan might be cinema’s most famous movie poster artist, but he’s not exactly an eager interview subject.

“I paint so that I don’t have to talk, and I make pictures so that I don’t have to explain myself,” Struzan said during a recent phone call from his California studio.

Fortunately, his fantastic images speak volumes. Struzan is adding to his landmark body of work with portraits of Universal’s iconic monsters for a new exhibition from Mondo, Alamo Drafthouse’s collectible art division, designed to celebrate the ongoing legacy and influence of the studio’s horror canon.

The Austin, Texas, show, which opens Friday and runs through Nov. 10, collects more than 60 original and screen-printed works of art from the likes of Struzan, legendary makeup artist Rick Baker, illustrators and artists Laurent Durieux, Francesco Francavilla and Ken Taylor and many others. (You can see Struzan’s drawings of Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolf Man exclusively in the attached gallery.)

Struzan was approached to contribute to the show, the largest Mondo has ever assembled, about three months ago, and the artist said he was intrigued by the idea of revisiting characters to whom he feels so strongly connected — the original 1931 “Frankenstein” starring Boris Karloff ranks among his favorite films.

“They’re all very close friends of mine,” Struzan said of the mythic creatures. “Frankenstein was a man who found himself in a terrible situation — cut to many pieces and who am I and what am I doing? And Dracula, this creature of the night that lives on blood – life is in the blood and he can’t come out in the light. It’s so metaphoric of the bad side of humanity. All of them were so wonderful in that way, which makes them so classic.”

2 Drew Struzan unveils Universal monster portraits for Mondo show

Drew Struzan’s art for “The Shawshank Redemption.” (© Drew Struzan 2004)

The press-shy artist, whose famous fans include George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro and Frank Darabont, created seven original portraits — in addition to Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolf Man, he drew Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Bride of Frankenstein and the Phantom of the Opera, using still photography to inspire and inform his moody, evocative images.

“It’s not like they sat in the studio and took a pose for me,” he chuckled. “I had to go through available stills. I was looking for ones that epitomized how I feel about them. I emphasize the word ‘feel’ because I’m not explaining them. People know them, they’ve seen them, you read the books — if you read Shelley, you read Stoker, if you’ve seen the movies, you know the stories. It’s not like doing a poster where I have to introduce them.

“I wanted to do sort of a classic image of them, the way we think they look, how we feel about them,” he continued. “Art — painting and drawing — is about emotion so it’s about feeling. I went looking for images and facial expressions that had the right feeling and I tried to make them a set of drawings where they all kind of hung together with that same kind of classic monster feeling.”

It’s the same feeling that can be found throughout “Drew Struzan: Oeuvre,” a 320-page career-spanning hardcover volume released last year by Titan Books that showcased the decades of Struzan’s groundbreaking work. After so many years working at such a prolific clip, these days the artist spends much of his time caring for his grandchildren — but he said he was pleased that the Mondo show gave him the opportunity to sit down and reconnect with figures that have loomed large in his imagination since his own childhood.

“I think I did all the movie posters over the last 40 years because of my love and ability to do portraits and what cool portraits are these,” Struzan said. “With that wonderful makeup they just epitomize this great classic literary concept. They were just a joy to be able to draw and they came out really wonderful. I felt good doing them so I think they feel good to see.”

– Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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