Club Cultured

A new exhibition at the House of Illustration looks at the life and work of Jo Brocklehurst – a hugely influential illustrator who immortalised the kings and queens of the London, Berlin and NYC club scenes in the 1970s and 80s.

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© Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

Next month, the excellent House of Illustration plays host to a solo show by illustrator Jo Brocklehurst, almost eleven years after her death in 2006. Brocklehurst was fascinated by the emerging club and subculture which surrounded her in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, and was hugely influential 

Brocklehurst cut her teeth capturing jazz musicians such as George Melly, but it was her depiction of the waifs and strays who frequented the club scenes in London, Berlin and New York in the 1980s which saw her grab the attention of the then much more conservative art world. She could often be found sketching in dark corners of fetish clubs, capturing the colourful clubland characters (including Boy George and Marc Almond) with her unique and energetic style.

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© Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

Brocklehurst's instantly recognisable style (often to compared to Egon Schiele) was honed at St Martin's School of Art, where she later went on to teach. She cut a mysterious and very distinctive figure with her dark glasses, flowing clothes and wide-brimmed hat, which was worn at all times. Her first solo show in Amsterdam in 1979 was soon followed by shows at the Francis Kyle Gallery in London and Leo Castelli in New York. She also formed part in the very controversial 1980 exhibition Women's Images of Men at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1980.

The forthcoming exhibition – Jo Brocklehurst: Nobodies and Somebodies – features many previously unseen pieces. As well as her best-known portraits from the 1980s, it also includes live drawings made in theatres, jazz clubs and opera houses in Berlin during the 1990s. These were worked up overnight for publication in the following edition of the city's Berliner Zeitung newspaper. The exhibition is co-curated by Brocklehurst's model and muse Isabelle Bricknall, along with House of Illustration’s Olivia Ahmad.

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© Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

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© Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

Jo Brocklehurst: Nobodies and Somebodies
03 February – 14 May 2017 

House of Illustration
2 Granary Square
London N1C 4BH