DAILY ART FIX: My Encounter with Gwar, the Artist Collective That Brings Heavy Metal Fever Dreams to Life

A true story…

VIDEO: Trailer for GWAR Documentary Let There Be GWAR - Vannen, Inc.

Gwar: The Boys in the Band

In the 1990s, after I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, I stayed on in Richmond, Virginia. One of the city’s claims to fame at the time was Gwar-a metal band that mixed muppets, gore, and slapstick into a fake-blood soaked spectacle. I remember one show of theirs I attended where they must have put too much color into the various fluids they sprayed into the audience; even the hairs on my arm were dyed pink for days afterwards.

Gwar in Action

There came a point where Gwar was banned from performing in costume in their own hometown, due to the over-the-top grossness and silly obscenity of it all. They used to do local shows as Rawg, where they would perform the music without the theatrics.

At the time I was the chairman of the exhibition committee of Artspace, an artist-run cooperative gallery. I had a great idea: if Gwar can’t use their props and costumes in Richmond, what not put on an art show with them? I imagined national press attention, MTV coverage, and a spirited debate about free expression.

The Gwar guys didn’t act like rock stars. They were always just hanging around the local scene like anyone else. I was able to get an introduction pretty quickly. One afternoon I met up with singer Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie for a tour of Slave Pit Incorporated, the facility where they manufactured their elaborate outfits and gear. There were rubber body parts everywhere; I remember there was a big latex O J Simpson, who was very topical at the time. Brockie was gracious and supportive of the idea of an art show. It all would have made for a great exhibit.

Long story short, Artspace decided they couldn’t get insurance for an event like this. I think many of the gallery members were too intimated by the crassness as well. The idea was dropped, and Gwar continued to grow their international cult following.

Here is a relic of those times: a little rubber souvenir I found one day on the cobblestones of a Richmond alleyway:

Dave Brockie sadly passed away in 2014. However, the band continues to this day, as recently covered in Atlas Obscura:

The studio, as it looked on an average day in 2017.

Slave Pit Incorporated in 2017

This is the studio that creates custom costumes, sets, and stage props for two-time Grammy-nominated thrash metal band GWAR. The group’s costume- and FX-fueled live comedy-horror operas won international attention in the early 1990s and continue to disgust and delight audiences today. Concertgoers can expect things like huge, grotesque monsters raging amid fiery explosions, as band members dressed like satanic space-ogres shred on guitars with headstocks that spew fake blood.

The artists working here are responsible for bringing the show to life. They’re considered band members and work on everything from storylining albums and scripting stage productions to filming music videos and writing branded graphic novels. And sometimes they play monsters onstage. The team consists of two full-time artistic directors and a few dozen contract contributors. Most attended art school at nearby Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Read the full article here: ATLAS OBSCURA – The Artist Collective That Brings Heavy Metal Fever Dreams to Life

Gwar - Wikipedia

Dave Brockie: RIP


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Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

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