The Auricular Today – putting an ear to the ground: an abstract by Steve Shriver

by The Frame Blog


Mars-1 (aka Mario Martinez), Nuclear Mystics, 2009

When I first discovered the pleasures of Auricular ornament in Alain Gruber’s 1994 book on the history of decorative arts a few years ago, I was immediately struck by the similarities of the work of Lutma et al to that of Salvador Dalí and the biomorphic Surrealists. This relationship lay not only in the swooping curves and drooping forms of the figures and landscapes described, but also in the malleability of their meaning, where forms never quite coalesce into that which they seem to imply, instead forming a hallucinatory and often times erotic series of folds, bumps and extrusions.

For the purposes of this paper  I would like to focus on a number of works by modern and contemporary artists who speak in the language of the Auricular, whether they are aware of it or not. Many artists in the 20-21st centuries have used elements of this vocabulary which derives from the original manifestation of the 17th century style; however, with the lessening importance of art history in a fine art degree these days, it is easily possible that some of them have never been conscious of their predecessors in the Auricular.

I shall attempt to trace aspects of the grotesque, the use of masks, and the meltingly fleshy forms of zoömorphic motifs in the work of artists from Picasso to Roberto Matta, and later in paintings by Pop artists such as Basil Wolverton, ‘biomechanical’ artists like H.R. Giger, and street artists like Mars-1.


Steve Shriver is a visual artist and art historian who has spoken and exhibited worldwide. He has taught at the Palos Verdes Art Center, The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, American Society of Interior Designers, The Representational Arts Conference, and the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. He has public murals in Hermosa Beach and San Pedro, California, and numerous private murals around the world. You can see more of his work online.