Jonathan Meese – the haunting German sculptor

I’m going to start this post on Jonathan Meese, whose work I first saw live at North Miami MoCA, which is also the United Stated debut of this survey show, with some quotes from Harald Falckenberg. He is both a major German industrialist, an art book publisher, and an art theorist. Falckenberg also teaches at the Hamburg’s Academy of Fine Arts, which I find to be a most remarkable set of accomplishments.

Jonathan Meese…(grew up) near Hamburg…”

Meese “is one of the few  the artists whom Harald Falckenberg calls a friend. ``He’s a very warm-hearted person. You wouldn’t believe it if you saw his paintings.”

“Meese’s works, with their ironic take on the insanity of heroes and Germanic myths, could be viewed as ugly, and fixated on the dark side of the human soul.”

“I have opted for grotesque art, because when I look around in my world, there are more bad than beautiful things,” Falckenberg says.


Napoleon by Jonathan Meese

“There are many works of Jonathan Meese that I don’t like,” (Falckenberg) says. “But I think they are very interesting.” He is intrigued by what he calls Mr. Meese’s “attitude of escapism.”

All quotes are from Bloomberg Muse.


At first glance this terrifying sculptural works seems to depict the singular insanity of war. The work confronts us with a type of urban guerilla goon as mythological soldier. The work is relentless in its representation of both the executioner and his victim, showing the kneeling figure, who knows his demise is eminent, as reptilian, yet at once showing the creature with the gun as a smaller figure, who without his weapon would lose this battle if it were hand to hand combat.


Jonathan Meese book, The Arch-State of Atlantisis

Jonathan Meese
Meese is fond of playing artistic games that have as their backdrop the history of German terror.  Some have questioned his deepest motivations for doing this. He has responded by saying that by representing evil he is exorcising it from German society, and from the larger world too, if not from German consciousness. I am always struck by my sense that German artists represent their history of being a devastator culture, but seem to find no means to represent their having been crushed because of their actions in World War II.
Jonathan Meese German 20th century military history performance in Amsterdam

Der Kampfer de Large by Jonathan Meese

Meese clearly is entranced by not only German military history, which leads him to construct nightmarish figures that conjure up the true character and personality of his subjects, but he is also equally excited by capturing in meaty sculpture the ruthless persona of European conquest figures such as Napoleon. Meese extends his interest in the phenomenon of unbridled mad militarized and sexualized force in his sculpture of Zeus and other mythic figures.
Suzy Wong.jpg
Suzy Wong by Jonathan Meese. Like his Dr. No sculpture, this work reflects Germany’s intense interest in Hollywood.
One of the elements which strikes me most about these sculptures is their being created using 19th century sculpture, which for me metaphorically sets each of these figures in the late 19th century, despite some of them coming from as far back as ancient Greek civilization, as in the case of Zeus. Both the technique, green patina and the materials used to produce these massive, larger than life  works, which certainly point to their relationship to the history of European sculpture, particularly that of Rodin, as they address the German imagination.
Brussels 2007 030.jpg
Dr. No by Jonathan Meese

a mythological being by Jonathan Meese

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles.


Vincent Johnson: Great Photographs of Los Angeles, 2001 – 2005

Santa Monica, 2005

This is one of my personal all-time favorite photos, which I took in Santa Monica one morning a while back.

What I love about it is that it captures the concrete reality and the ephemeral at once. It shows an image of California that one can actually experience here when driving, which is that the road in front of you has disappeared or ends abruptly.  It also recalls the theme of solid and air, density and atmospheric. All of the man-made signs, street markings and street signs, street lamps, speak of an effort to create the possibility of order. The rising, undulating street appears to possibly be a bridge rising to allow ships to pass underneath it. Yet the movement is illusory. Life is both real and a dream.

Private home, Pasadena, California, 2005g

In the year 2001 I returned to my project that began in 1995, of photographing Los Angeles, without concern to subject. I would merely take pictures of any and everything I found visually intriguing. Between 1995 and 2007 I would take over 25,000 photographs in the Los Angeles region. I began to categorize the works over time, and then to focus on particular areas, such as Los Angeles vernacular architecture, and photographing LA at night.

I am currently going through my archive. I’ll post more photographs as time allows.

City park, Santa Monica, California, 2005

Parked Cadillac, Los Angeles, 2005

Under the Hollywood Downtowner neon sign, Hollywood, California, 2005

Adventurer motel, near LAX Airport, Los Angeles, 2005

Royal Roost, named after the legendary jazz club in NYC, South Central Los Angeles, 2005

Bitter Redhead bar, Santa Monica, California, 2005

Liquor store, San Fernando Valley, California, 2005

Valley Ho Liquor store, Van Nuys, California

Strip club billboard sign, Van Nuys

Automotive parts store, Van Nuys

Drapery store, San Fernando Valley

Jolly Jug liquor store, North Hollywood

Roofstack, South Central Los Angeles

Night street light, Los Angeles

Motel Tangiers, San Fernando Valley

Market Sign from 1950's Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley

Streetlamp, MacArthur Park, Los Angeles

Parked black Two-tone Thunderbird, Van Nuys

Mansfield Motel and Movie Billboard, Los Angeles

Six Months Crenshaw gallery space, Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles. He has recently been named a 2010 United States Artists Project artist.

The USA site went live on December 7, 2010

My initial project is to fabricate a 3 foot tall doll house sized sculpture of the collapsed William Livingstone House in Detroit. The project description and a video presentation of the project are at the links provided here:
Please feel free to review the site and to contact others who would be interesting in supporting the program and my project.
thanks so much
Vincent Johnson
Los Angeles, California
cell: 818:430.1604

Blog at

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