Kurt Cobain’s unseen paintings

17th August 2017

A collection of paintings by the Nirvana frontman has resurfaced for the first time since his death in 1994, but this time for public view.

It was announced June 2017 that a collection of paintings by Kurt Cobain, along with some of his notebooks, would be exhibited in his hometown, Seattle. Most of his artwork has been inaccessible to the public eye, having remained in storage since the singer’s death in 1994.

United Talent Agency Artist Space (UTA) hosted the exhibition this summer at the Seattle Art Fair. Although mostly recognised for his career as a musician, UTA discuss Cobain’s passion for art throughout his lifetime, pointing out the dark humour that is mirrored in both his lyrics and paintings.

“Kurt Cobain was perhaps the most iconic musician of his generation, but his work as a visual artist is often overlooked” – Josh Roth, Head of UTA Fine Arts.

Cobain worked across various mediums and methods, from painting to drawing to collage. The work portrays a balance of his creative energy and wit, alongside his struggles with depression, self image and heroin addiction. You may recognise his piece “Incesticide” from the cover of Nirvana’s 1992 album of the same name. Kurt also created the album artwork for their 1993 album “In Utero”.

 “Cobain’s paintings, while not yet as well-known as his music, provide insight into the artist’s experience and present an important art historical narrative that together with his music legacy, tells a gritty story of youth culture in the 1990s.”

Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, has long been represented by UTA; who last year gained representation of his estate. After discussing the possibility of the work going on tour, they claimed, “A new light will be shed on his oeuvre, even to fans well-versed in his work”.

Work by Mike Kelley, Joe Bradley, Nate Lowman, Eliza-beth Peyton, Dennis Hopper and Dash Snow, among others, are also on display, and will “establish a dialogue between Cobain’s iconic oeuvre, those who influenced him, and those he has influenced.”

Josh Roth, Head of UTA Fine Arts, added: “Kurt Cobain was perhaps the most iconic musician of his generation, but his work as a visual artist is often overlooked. These paintings provide an opportunity to see him, and some of his contemporaries, in a new light.”