Strap yourself in... because it's time, once again, to deep dive into the brand new Autumn collection by JJ Adams (released 27/08/21) - the first of our 'Hidden Gems' for 2021! It would be an understatement to say we have missed exploring these wonderful artwork, so let's get ahead and stuck right in to uncover some absolute gems for you all...
We begin with the follow up to the 2020 sell out 'I'm Not A Monster'. This time, we focus on the Joker's arch-enemy and protector of Gotham City - Batman. Just like the work of Heather Ledger, Christian Bale stands proudly center stage of the dark and atmospheric scene of the city, with bats swarming around and the bat signal appearing from the smoky surroundings below. There are many 'easter eggs' which can be found in this particular piece, leading us back to the initial work. Remnants of a deck of cards spill out of the sky and just like in JJ's opening piece, the Joker card is clearly visible to the viewer. Tattooed to the chest of Batman's suit are the words 'You Complete Me' which again, is another reference to his earlier 2020 work. In 'I'm Not A Monster' you will spot the same words on the waistcoat of the Joker - a quote directly from the scene in the film where Batman demands to know why the Joker is so adamant to kill him - really bringing to light the true complexities in the relationship between the two. In fact, if you look closely enough, emerging from the shadows behind the Dark Knight is the silhouette of Heath Ledger in that famous 'jailhouse' pose. To the right of Batman appear the faces of Jared Leto, Joaquin Phoenix, Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero - all other actors who have taken on the role of the famous villain throughout the years - another feature on the original 'Im Not A Monster'
On the bottom left hand corner you will discover an animated interpretation of Caped Crusader surfacing and the words, which may be more difficult to decipher, but they do read as one of the most iconic sentences ever uttered by the star "I am Vengeance, I am the Night, I am Batman" The line was first spoken and made famous by Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated series between 1992 -1995 and has continued to feature in in the newer Arkham series of games, interestingly voiced by the very same actor all those years later.
Christian Bale's role as Batman, along with Heath Ledgers performance as The Joker, has often been considered one of the greatest of all actors to play the superhero in film and I firmly believe this is a truly outstanding tribute to both of their unforgettable characters.
Fans of JJ's work will, more than likely, be thrilled to see the additions of not one, not two but three new editons inspired by the iconic Star Wars franchise. First up is the wonderful 'Play With Me' which to me, is incredibly reminiscent of older sell out works like 'Imperial Walkers' and 'TK421' - with it's stark white backdrop, making sure your eye immediately focuses in on the main figures in the image. Chewbacca and R2D2 stand under a towering Scout Walker, which of course in true JJ Adams style, has been embellished with a number of additional accessories and graffiti. If we take a look at Chewie to begin with, we start to realise this is not in fact the realistic version of the character we are so used to seeing in the films, but instead a figurine. More specifically, this is a vintage 1978 action figure of the Wookie male warrior with the additions of a mohawk and a spray paint can in hand. Look to R2D2 and notice he is also a figurine from the Kenner 1985 'Power Of The Force' toy collection and you will begin to understand why this piece has been so affectionately named 'Play With Me'. Actually, the entire image is made up of toys it seems. A little face is visible peeking out of a window on the Scout Walker - an adorable little vintage Chief Chirpa Ewok, all the way from 1983. Even the Scout Walker itself is an original Kenner model from 1982 and these are all figures from JJ's own personal collection...which just goes to show how much of a fan he really is!
As mentioned above, there are a number of 'little extras' on the AT-AT Walkers cousin, including of course the classics like 'Sith Happens' a 'Death Star Survivors Club' sticker and the abbreviation 'F.O.A.D' - which happens to feature on many of JJ's Star Wars themed works... and well if you know, you know. (I can't deny a small part of me feels this is consciously added by JJ with the hopes of making it that little more interesting for us art dealers trying to explain what this stands for whilst not being outright offensive) Scrawled on the side of the At-St walker are the words 'The Death Star Is Overrated', 'No Hope' and one of my personal favourite adornments, a tiny portrait of Donald Duck with his eyes crossed out (if you are aware of the back story to this you'll be with me in thinking this is the perfect 'on your bike' to a certain entertainment company) The 'Maersk' logo also appears on the side of the Walker, the Danish shipping company and after much research, the only connection I can see is that 1. The most obvious, they are both forms of transport and 2. They have both been created in toy forms by Lego over the years. Interestingly, lego have a specific colour of brick they have named 'Maersk Blue' and it has featured in many models, like the Star Wars range - over the years.
Her Highness, Princess Leia Organa, of the planet Alderaan...JJ Adams style! This is the second work inspired by Carrie Fisher's legendary role, after the release of his original Tattoo Leia way back in 2014! There is a nod to the earlier work with the same sleeve tattoo appearing Leia's shoulder, a comic book version of the famous 1977 movie release poster created by the Hildebrant Brothers. In the original Leia piece, the Princess was wearing her trademark buns or, as it is sometimes referred to, the 'Death Star Hair' as seen in 'A New Hope'. This time however, JJ has taken inspiration from 'The Empire Strikes Back' where her hair style consisted of looped braids on either side of her head, with a swept-up bun in the back. Facing side on and armed with a Blaster Rifle, a number of scribbles and inkings appear, including the words 'May the force be with you' along her back and the famous line "You're my only hope" she utters to Obi-Wan Kenobi, scrawled along her blaster. She has the obvious 'Princess' tattoo on her neck and a Stormtrooper (we can only guess is a tribute to TK421) wrapping around her forearm. This is also appears to be TK421's blaster because, blink and you may miss it, there are the tiny words 'Property Of TK421' etched along the side. Anyone who remembers the original JJ Adams TK421 sculpture and the print released back in 2014 under the same title, will recall the same 'F.O.A.D' stamp featuring on the blaster rifle.. In typical JJ Adams fashion, another salute to his older creations. Leia's edgy look is completed with a typical piercing above the lip and a pair of silver 'Alliance Starbird' earrings.
This new piece is titled 'Your Worshipfulness' - Han calls Leia this after they escape from the trash compactor in 'A New Hope'. Leia also sports a 'Han' tattoo between her thumb and index finger which of course, this aludes to her great romance with Han Solo in the films and this perfectly brings me to the next work..
Place 'Scoundrel' and 'Your Worshipfulness' side by side and you will find Leia gazing at Han Solo and him, with a finger in the air, pointing directly back at her... making them the ultimate pair! It seems JJ is also making light of something else with Han's gesture, referring to what the internet has hilariously dubbed Harrison Ford's 'Finger Of Doom'. Ford regularly displays his go-to hand gesture of pointing with his index finger in many of his famous roles - including Han Solo and now I have pointed it out (excuse the pun) you'll have a hard time not noticing it next time you sit down to watch the series of films... so well, you're welcome! Han is displaying a portrait tattoo of Princess Leia on his wrist and another of his captor Boba Fett on his shoulder.
The words inked on his left hand can just about be made out.. with some of them disappearing below the image, so for anyone struggling they read as 'I'll pay for my sins when I get paid' This quote is very fitting for Han Solo if you take into consideration some of his most prominent characteristics. He seems to be a reckless, money-hungry smuggler and the classic bad boy. But that doesn’t mean he’s not able to do good and feel good doing it as we see later in the movies. He has a matching tattoo with Princess Leia on his neck that says 'Scoundrel' and this also happens to be the title of the piece. Scoundrel was a term used for individuals who were considered rogues by the galactic mainstream society in Star Wars and the word Leia used to describe Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.
Again, JJ makes reference to his earlier Tattoo Leia work. In this initial piece, Leia is armed with Solo's DL-44 pistol which as expected, has some new additions like a 'Death Star Survivors' sticker and 'Shoot First!' scrawled into the barrel. This exact replica of the gun now features in this new piece.
""I happen to like to shoot first, Rekkon. As opposed to shooting second." - Han Solo
There is also the distinctive tattoo just above the portrait of Leia on his wrist which states 'Alderaan, Never Again' - Alderaan being the home planet of Leia which was destroyed by the Death Star. An identical tattoo appears on JJ's 2014 version of the Princess.
The very last thing I really want to commend on this particular piece, is JJ's unwavering attention to detail which you will find in so much of his art. It won't be as apparent to anyone who is viewing this work strictly on a computer screen - but if you look into the pupils of Han Solo you can just about make out the reflection of an X-Wing Fighter!
The Haunting At Castle Rock, an exclusive for Robertson Fine Art and the 3rd in the series of JJ's works inspired by one of the most exciting historic sites in Western Europe, Edinburgh Castle. Over the years JJ Adams has created a number of works centered around Scotland and our culture that have proven to be incredibly popular - and this seems no different!
This wonderful piece embodies not only our famous landmark, but JJ has also brought elements from all of his previous sell out Scottish works together to create this image. Circling above the castle are two dragons, and you may recognise these from the popular 'Here Be Dragons'. There is an Irn Bru logo plastered to the front of the castle which of course, is the nations drink and the inspiration behind JJ's 'Irn Bru Soup' released in 2020. There are the distinctive additions of swooping eagles, wild thistles and the shadow of a Piper in the foreground - these can also be found on JJ's original 'Edinburgh Castle' and in 'Here Be Dragons'. It's more difficult to spot but in the far top right corner of the castle appears the silhouette of the 'Ghost Piper' standing proudly on the roof. The typical graffiti markings are also present in this new work, with phrases like 'Welcome To Scotland' and 'It's Not Cheap' appearing and something that is probably expected by most of the fans of this genre!
Personally, my favourite part of this work and another testament to JJ's eye for detail is the 'Advertise Here' sign on the castle which actually features our Edinburgh galleries genuine telephone number (0131 285 0695 for anyone wondering!) It really is an honour to have a little feature on the piece that we are so proud to display on our walls here.
So to conclude, another triumphant exclusive artwork that really encompasses not only our country, our capital and our business - but all of the epic Scottish themed works that JJ has created to date!
The Smoking Gun series - featuring 3 of Hollywood's biggest stars - James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando.. all enjoying a cheeky little ciggy!
Of course, back in the 50's - smoking wasn't what it is now and pretty much every big actor would be lighting one up between sets, including this trio. Why has JJ Adams chosen these 3 icons in particular though? Well, it could be because they are all linked and all of them were said to be involved romantically at one point or another throughout their lives! They are also some of the ultimate rebels of their time - often rebelling against conformity and standing out from the crowd. These works are simple yet sleek and really remind me of the very early Tattooed series of works that put JJ Adams on the map. The tattoos on all are subtle with small quotes like 'Tell Me' and 'This Too Shall Pass' appearing on Marilyn's wrist. This phrase is often used as encouragement to remind someone that a bad or unpleasant situation will eventually end - possibly alluding to Marilyn's struggle with her mental health over the years of her life. James Dean also has the words 'FAST' inked on his fingers. Again this could be referring to the fleeting life he lived and how he eventually passed away in a car crash at just 24 years old.
Marlon Brando's image is the only one that slightly differs from the others.. .as in the graffiti background around him you will see 3 silhouettes of the three of his biggest roles during his career - 'Johnny' from 'The Wild One', 'Colonel Walter E.Kurtz' in 'Apocalypse Now' and of course, 'Don Vito Corleone' in the Godfather.
The 'Smoking Gun' series are available in colour and in black and white editions!
I believe this piece is one of the most unique works of the entire collection and for that reason, among others, I was really drawn to 'Music's Most Wanted' in particular. As the title suggests, this includes a series of mugshots of some of the most iconic men to come out of the music industry over the years! Most of these featured faces may be totally unsurprising as they displayed a notorious 'bad boy' image... but there may be one or two that will have you scratching your head, so let's get into it!
We will start in the top left corner with of course, Mr Cash. Johnny Cash was actually arrested 7 times over the period of 1958 - 1968 and as JJ Adams has stated below the picture of Johnny.. a few of these were for possession of non-prescription Amphetamines. The image however is taken in 1966 and is not actually real. Cash performed at Folsom prison but did not serve time there and asked the staff to take the picture as a joke during this time. Johnny Cash is a likely suspect for a piece like this but the next in the line up did surprise me. Beside Cash is a young Frank Sinatra! Most people don’t know that Frank Sinatra has an arrest record and a mugshot to match ....and his crime? Well, that would be 'Adultery'. In 1938, 23 year old Sinatra was charged for carrying on with a married woman. The charge was eventually dropped however so he spent no more than only a few hours in jail. Another icon in the bill is Elvis Presely and again, this may come as a bit of a shock to some. The King of Rock and Roll found himself in a run-in with the law in 1956 after getting into a scuffle at a gas station. He was officially charged with assault. Next up, Doors front man Jim Morrison. Morrison had several brushes with the law throughout his life and in fact was arrested 6 times throughout, this particular one was in 1970 for lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, public profanity and public drunkenness.
David Bowie's legendary mug shot is the next to feature in this work. Often referred to as one of the best celebrity mugshots - the photo is mistakenly believed to be a staged promotional photo.. but it is in fact, very real. He was charged with possession of Marijuana after his performance in Rochester in 1976. One person you will not be surprised to see here is member of the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious. The bassist fairly lived up to his name in August 1978, when he was accused of murdering his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. A young Mick Jagger stands next to Vicious - in 1967 himself and fellow band member Keith Richards were arrested at Richards' West Sussex, England home for drug possession. Jagger was just 24 at the time. Lastly we have the great rock star, Jimi Hendrix. He was also arrested on illegal drug charges in Toronto in 1969.
JJ has completed this work by adorning the background with various newspaper articles, each written about the stars arrests.
Last, but certainly not least in the collection is the sensational 'Dodgems'. Fans will most likely pick up on some 'You Scream' vibes from this particular work.. and it sure seems to be the next in the installment as we see the Grim Reeper take center stage as he takes a turn on the fairground favourite. If we take a look back at the 2017 creation we see a young girl with cute pig tails and a teddy and balloon in tow, naively approaching the 'unusual' ice cream van. Well, it looks like she's back again as you see her shadow appearing in the bottom of the image - and a fallen ice-cream sits beside her obviously referencing her and the Reeper's earlier encounter. A number of exciting characters have also taken their chance to have a little fun on the attraction and you can spot Boba Fett, Gizmo and Slimer from Ghostbusters in the surrounding cars. The cars themselves each have their own special designs - like a Barbie Car, Ghostbusters, Dukes Of Hazard and Waynes World.
Analising the signage on the fairground ride, we begin to realise that the bumper cars are situated on Brighton Pier. JJ has created couple of works over the years based on Brighton's famous pier and even the once popular West Pier. If you look closely into the distance you will spot the atmospheric remnants of the once bustling 19th-century pleasure pier.
Engraved on the front of the Dodgems ride are the words 'Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds' a quote from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita ...and a pretty fitting quote for the Grim Reeper, don't you think?