'Little Star in New York' (Heavy Metal, June 1982)

Carlos Ceesepe was a Spanish visual artist, painter, film director and comics artist. He was one of the most important artists of the Madrilean counterculture movement La Movida Madrileña ("The Madrid Movement"). Early in his career Ceesepe made several controversial and outrageous underground comix. A 1984 satirical comic strip by his hand caused protest among the right-wing political party Allianza Popular. His best known comics series were the surreal humoristic 'Slober' (1975-1979). Ceesepe's work often changed in styles and techniques, but was always instantly recognizable as his own. Photographer Ouka Leele once described him as the "Spanish Toulouse-Lautrec".

Early life and influences
Carlos Sánchez Pérez was born in 1958 in Madrid. He came from a family of carpenters who originally lived in Torrevieja, but settled in Madrid after World War II. His father was a veteran from the Spanish Civil War. Ceesepe's older brother also enjoyed drawing. As a youngster Ceesepe underwent strong influence from the pop-art movement, particularly Peter Phillips and Peter Blake, the man who designed the album cover of 'Sgt. Peppers' (1967) by the Beatles. Other graphic influences were Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Amadeo Modigliani, Max Ernst, David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Marc Chagall. The young boy started drawing at the age of 16 and enrolled at the Madrid School of Fine Arts, but dropped out after only a month.


'Vicios Modernos' (originally published in Star)

Underground comix
In 1975 Spanish dictator Francisco Franco finally passed away after nearly 40 years of oppression. His official successor, Juan Carlos, surprised everyone by reinstating democracy and turning Spain back into a democratic constitutional monarchy. Four decades long Franco's regime had censored anything remotedly blasphemous, erotic or subversive. Now this censorship was lifted. Spain in the late 1970s and entire 1980s saw the rise of many taboo-breaking painters, sculptors, photographers, novelists, film directors, TV hosts, pop and rock groups and, of course, comics artists. Ceesepe was one of the Spanish underground comix artists who rode along on this wave. His pseudonym "Ceesepe" was chosen through the pronunciation of his initials: C.S.P. Together with colleagues like El Hortelano, Nazario, Mariscal and Max he established the "El Rrollo" group who published their counterculture comics in self-published fanzines and in alternative magazines like La Luna de Madrid and Madriz. Ceesepe even had his own comics store called El Rastro. His drawings furthermore appeared in Star, Bésame Mucho, Disco-Express, Carajillo, Nasti de Plasti and the revolutionary adult comics magazine El Víbora. Outside of Spain, Ceesepe's work was published in Métal Hurlant (France), Frigidaire (Italy), Zoulou (France) and Heavy Metal (USA).

comic from Carajillo by Ceesepe
'El Trapecista' (Rock Comix Extra #4, 1976)

Slober
Ceesepe was only 16 years old when he published his earliest comic strip, 'Slober' (1975-1979), in the pages of Star. Slober was an anti-hero who experienced surreal adventures full of dark comedy. He happily indulged in drug abuse, murder, cannibalism and rape, not caring whether these women were underage or pregnant. The comics felt like a bad drug trip, with appearances of people like John Lennon, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Adolf Hitler, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Crumb, Quino's 'Mafalda' and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 'Superman'. Ceesepe once read that Joan Miró used draw from the top of the head. He borrowed this method, which explains his own stream-of-consciousness artwork. The taboo-breaking content of his comics can still shock readers today, but at the time many of his contemporaries drew similar stuff. Decades of outrage and oppressed frustrations over Franco's iron thumb had to thrown out of the artists' systems first. Nevertheless Ceesepe was summoned to appear in front of the Spanish Ministry of Information and Tourism to explain his inner thought process. Clueless who was behind the pseudonym "Ceesepe", they were stunned to find out he was just a youngster. Therefore they allowed him to simply go home again.


'Bestias de Lujo'

Carajillo
In the fall of 1975 Ceesepe, Agus, JROrtega, Campoamor, Iñaki, Gallego and Santana launched the Barcelona magazine Carajillo. The publication featured another surreal comic strip by Ceesepe, 'Enter My Dreams', hugely influenced by his love for musicians like Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Carole King and Neil Young. However, his most remarkable comic strip from this period was '¿Dónde vamos?' ('Where are we heading?', 1975). The story looked back at the dreams of a better society under Franco's regime, but wondered whether the outburst of counterculture wouldn't run the risk of becoming bland commercialism? Decades later Ceesepe confessed in an interview that his fear seemed to have come true.

Dibujos by Ceesepe
From: Dibujos (1982)

Controversy
Gradually Ceesepe's comics evolved into autobiographical tragicomical tales with more focused artwork and narratives. The content, though, was still raw. Storylines often dealt with young Spaniards trying to deal with the sudden freedom they now were allowed to enjoy. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll were common ingredients. Ceesepe drew erotic stories which had a real heart, despite rarely ending in a happy end. As the 1970s dissolved into the 1980s punk and new wave dictated a new aesthetic. In January 1984 Ceesepe became one of the original contributors to the experimental and subversive magazine Madriz, which would soon cause a national scandal. On 23 April 1984 he published a satirical comic strip in Madriz' fourth issue which sparked outrage among members of the right-wing conservative political party Allianza Popular. The comics story in question featured Karl Marx and Mao Zedong as 'Supermarx' and 'Supermao' fighting the "supervillains" general Franco and far-right Spanish politician Blas Piñar. The Allianza Popular asked for the issue to be withdrawn from stores and wanted a total ban on the magazine. They also demanded Minister of Youth Francisco Contreras to resign. Party spokesman José María Álvarez del Manzano felt both story and dialogue were in "very bad taste", while member of the Madrid city council Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón considered Ceesepe's cartoons "repulsive nonsense (...) in violation with ethics and family issues."

Frigidaire cover by Ceesepe
Cover for the first issue of Madriz, and for an issue of the Italian magazine Frigidaire

Film posters and other artworks
Meanwhile Ceesepe's art reached new audiences through different media. He designed both the opening titles as well as the movie poster for Pedro Almodóvar's debut film 'Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del monton' ('Pepi, Luci, Bom', 1980). The poster looked like a comic book page, which fit the tone of the film perfectly well. 'Pepi, Luci, Bom' followed a very loose narrative with crass humor about marijuana, sex, erection contests, homosexuality, punk rock, transvestism and domestic violence. It could have been one of Ceesepe's comics, which might explain why the director gave him a small cameo too. At the time 'Pepi, Luci, Bom' polarized viewers, but it did become a cult film afterwards. Ceesepe designed other movie posters as well, namely the ones for Almodovar's 'La Ley del Deseo' (1987), Antonio Artero's 'Cartas desde Huesca' (1993), José Ángel Bohollo's 'Ciénaga' (1993) and Paloma Concejero's 'Antonio Vega. Tu voz entre otras mil' (2014), about poet Antonio Vega. Ceesepe stood behind the camera himself too. He directed two short films, 'Amor Apache' (1985) and 'Bienaventura 'El Bruto' (1987), in which he and his colleagues Alberto García-Alix, El Hortelano and Ouka Leele played the starring roles. The artist furthermore directed the episode 'El Eterno Adolescente' (1989) of the TV series 'Delirios de Amor'.

Bolero, from Madriz, by Ceesepe 1984
'Bolero de Primavera', from Madriz #7 (1984)

Album covers and other illustration work
Ceesepe was also a prolific album cover designer. He illustrated front covers for Kiko Veneno ('Seré Mecánico Por Ti' 1982, 'Pata Palo', 1982, 'La Catastrofe Mayor', 1983), Pistones ('Voices', 1982), Golpes Bajos ('Golpes Bajos', 1983, 'Todas Sus Grabaciones', 1990), Piter Pank ('Noche Negra', 1983), Ketama ('Ketama', 1985, 'Canciones Hondas', 1991), Pascal Comelade ('El Primitivismo', 1987, 'Ragazzin' the Blues', 1991, 'La Filosofia Del Plat Combinat', 2004, 'El Primitivismo / Sentimientos', 2007) and Mano Negra ('La Mala Vida', 1995). His artwork could be admired on the Spanish edition of Rolling Stone and the front cover of the U.S. humor magazine The New Yorker. In 1987 he illustrated Francisco Threshold's book 'Guide of Postmodernity' (1987).


'La clase obrera se divierte' ('The working class having fun'), poster published by Lambiek in 1983

Painting
But too most people Ceesepe is first and foremost known as a painter, though he combined various techniques: digital print, silkscreens, collages, photographs... In 1979 he held his first solo exhibition at the Buades gallery in Madrid. In 1982 his work was exhibited at the Menéndez Pelayo University. Two years later he was one of the most celebrated artists at the art happening Arco '84. Between 27 September and 25 November 1984 Ceesepe participated with the exposition 'Tintin in Barcelona', a co-organisation between the Joan Miró Foundation and Studio Hergé, where various artists made artworks inspired by Hergé's 'Tintin'. Like many of his colleagues, such as El Hortelano and Pérez Villalta, El Ceesepe eventually left the comics industry and concentrated on his far more prestigious career as a modern artist. His artwork hung in museums all over Europe up until New York City.

Final years and death
Throughout most of his further life the artist spent his time between Madrid and Paris. In 2011 he was honoured with La Medalla de Oro al mérito en las Bellas Artes ("Golden Medal for Merits in Fine Arts"). The gallery Espacio Valverde in Madrid held an exhibition in November 2014, highlighting his entire career. In 2017 Ceesepe appeared in the documentary 'Alberto García-Alix. La línea de sombra' (2017) about his friend and photographer Alberto García-Alix. In 2018 he passed away from leukemia at the age of 60. Spanish Minister of Culture José Guirao expressed his grief over the loss of "one of the most innovative artists of democratic Spain." Ceesepe's comics were collected in the books 'Vicios Modernos' (1979), 'Dibujos' (1982), 'Barcelona By Night' (1982), 'Dijubes' (1983) and 'Paris-Madrid' (1985).


Ceesepe painting for Lambiek's 15th anniversary in 1983

Lambiek
Lambiek will always be grateful to Ceesepe for giving our founder Kees Kousemaker two of his paintings and making a special drawing to celebrate our store's 15th anniversary in 1983. Kees was a great admirer and had Ceesepe exhibit in Lambiek twice. The first time between 6 January until halfway March 1987. The second time took place between 23 November 1990 and 20 January 1991, where it was extended for one week extra because of its success. Afterwards Ceesepe gave Kees another painting to show his respect.


Kees Kousemaker with Ceesepe in Gallery Lambiek (1990)

www.ceesepe.net

Series and books by Ceesepe in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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