’Cut-ups, Cut-ins, Cut-outs: The Art of William S. Burroughs’, Ljublijana

Portrait of William S. Burroughs
Portrait of William S. Burroughs from the 'Danger' series, by Brion Gysin, 1959.
(Image credit: Courtesy of The Barry Miles Archive)

'William S. Burroughs the artist' probably places second to 'William S. Burroughs the writer' in the sphere of popular culture. Yet in the sphere of influence, Burroughs's art has had immeasurable success, inspiring icons from David Bowie to Patty Smith to Kurt Cobain.

An exhibition on now at the International Centre of Graphic Arts (opens in new tab) in Ljublijana, Slovenia, focuses on the artistic side of Burroughs' oeuvre, specifically his cut-up works, precursors to postmodern collage and even digital sampling in music. 'Cut-ups, Cut-ins, Cut-outs: The Art of William S. Burroughs (opens in new tab)' uses the Beat artist's patchwork painting, photography, film and audio work to tell the story of his development in this other field.

Curators Colin Fallows, a professor at Liverpool John Moores University (opens in new tab), and Synne Genzmer of Vienna's Kunsthalle (opens in new tab) museum have rounded up dozens of rare works from Burroughs's experimental phase. They begin in the late 1950s, shortly after Burroughs met the painter Brion Gysin (opens in new tab), the godfather of cut-up art, at the Beat Hotel in Paris, and continue through the 1960s.

Gysin collaborated with Burroughs on his early cut-ups, splicing together fragments of text and sound to uncover a sort of freedom from conventional thinking. The original material came from Burroughs's own writings, classical authors like T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare and Kafka, popular imagery, scientific motifs and TV; when juxtaposed they conspire to create new, disconnected realities.

Tracing the progression of works from text to painting to sound offers a glimpse into the artist's complex mind and the beginnings of a revolution in art and music that continues to shape us even today.

Burroughs' cut-up poetry.

Installation view of Burroughs' cut-up poetry.

(Image credit: Jaka Babnik)

Untitled (p. 155)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

'Untitled (p. 155)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, 1965.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum © Estate of William S. Burroughs)

Spray paint cans in front of blank canvases to create abstract paintings.

Burroughs was known for his shotgun art, in which he used a rifle to shoot at spray paint cans in front of blank canvases to create abstract paintings.

(Image credit: Jaka Babnik)

'Untitled (p. 130)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

'Untitled (p. 130)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, 1965.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum © Estate of William S. Burroughs)

'Untitled (p. 157)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

'Untitled (p. 157)', by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, 1965.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum © Estate of William S. Burroughs)

Collection of Andrew Renton

'The Curse of Bast', by William S. Burroughs, 1987.

(Image credit: Collection of Andrew Renton © Estate of William S. Burroughs.)

45 Long Colt 5 Shots

'45 Long Colt 5 Shots', by William S. Burroughs, 1992.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Mugrabi Collection © Estate of William S. Burroughs)

'Collage', by William S. Burroughs, 1964

'Collage', by William S. Burroughs, 1964.

(Image credit: Courtesy of The Barry Miles Archive © Estate of William S. Burroughs)

ADDRESS

International Centre of Graphic Arts
Grad Tivoli
Pod turnom 3
SI-1000 Ljubljana

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