Santana – Abraxas

It was difficult for me to pick what Mati Klarwein album cover to feature in this post. I chose Santana’s second album, Abraxas, because it seems to be the most recognizable. Ever since I bought this on vinyl, the cover has boggled my mind. It’s a surreal collage of goddesses, elephants, Wodaabe men, a dude with sun glasses and a host of other things, chosen by Santana after seeing the painting printed in a magazine.

Mati Karwein was a painter born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1932, emigrating with his family to Palestine (Israel) two years later. His father, Yusef Ben Menachem, was an architect associated with the Bauhaus movement. His mother was an opera singer. At 17 he moved to Paris and studied with artists such as Fernand Leger, later meeting one of his major influences, Ernst Fuchs, as well as making friends with Salvador Dalí.

In the 60’s and 70’s he became well known for his complex, visionary paintings that would soon find their way onto a wealth of album covers, the most popular being Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. I hesitate to call them “psychedelic” as Mati himself said that he was not directly influenced by psychedelic drugs as he was unable to paint while using them. He strongly aligned himself with the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism (partly founded by Fuchs) which focused on techniques of the Old Masters, grounded in realism, and combining that with “religious and esoteric symbolism”.

His work has been used on albums by Santana, Miles Davis, Buddy Miles, Jackie McLean, The Last Poets, George Duke and others. Wikipedia has a full list. I think the first cover I owned by him was Earth, Wind & Fire’s Last Days & Time, which I got from my parents’ collection. The image directly above is a portrait of Jimi Hendrix, meant for a collaborative album by Hendrix and arranger Gil Evans. Unfortunately Hendrix died before it could be recorded. Mati Klarwein died in 2002 after contracting cancer, leaving behind at least 600 paintings.

The Life & Art of Adbul Mati Klarwein
Mati Klarwein @ Wikipedia
Carlos Santana
Miles Davis
Earth, Wind & Fire
Jimi Hendrix

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