This original gouache noir illustration by well listed and prolific illustrator Mort Kunstler was used as the January 1968 edition of Male, illustrating Mario Cleri’s “Blonde Bandit in Black Lace.” An explosive sex kitten car chase that captures the prevailing nihilism associated with the 1960’s “sweat magazine” art and envelope-pushing adventure fiction. A tense and hyper-realistic pop-art time capsule. The tagline reads “A long legged, mini skirted swinger with a yen for men and money, she set off with her gunhappy boyfriend on a coast-to-coast stick up rampage that left two dozen police departments looking like H-bomb victims, spicing her days with non-stop violence and her nights with all-out love action…”
In the 1960s and 1970s, men’s magazines exploited Cold War tensions and capitalized on prevalent working class American fears. “The Sweats,” as they are commonly known, followed the blueprint set by the pulp magazines of the previous generation, depicting perceived enemies as savages, Nazis, and Communist torturers. Leading illustrators in this strangely subversive genre, such as Norman Saunders, James Bama, Norm Eastman, Rafael DeSota and Mort Kunstler, created sensational, figurative illustrations executed in a style markedly similar to Socialist Realism and its associated propaganda imagery.
In Adam Parfey’s 2003 coffee table book It’s A Man’s World; Men’s Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps Parfey states: “Consumerism, the specifically American style of propaganda best promoted by the work of Mort Kunstler in the 50’s and beyond, is an aesthetic limited by little beyond the ability to sell a magazine, though it rhetorically promoted the idea that America no matter it’s behavior was always morally superior. Other political beliefs, Nazism and Communism particularly, were by the conduct of their soldiers always portrayed as being perverse, ruthless and vicious. The racial component and sadistic misogyny of men’s magazines from the 50’s, the 60’s and even the 70’s is today astounding.” “What’s also astounding is the imagination of the illustrations, all tractioned by the ability to depict fear. Fear of enemies, fear of animals, fear of women, fear of any loaded attack on the buyer’s manliness.” Grapefruit Moon Gallery will be offer 5 original works by Mort Kunstler and a James Bama cover in the coming days.