Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi

Image of Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi (2)
Release Date: 
July 31, 2016
Korero Press
Reviewed by: 

From the 1960s through the early ‘90s, Italy was host to an artistic subgenre known as “sexy fumetti,” a wild blend of eroticism, horror, violence, and some extremely messed-up humor. Something of a star among cover artists for Edifumetto, Italy’s lead publisher of adult comics was Alessandro Biffignandi.

For this second installment in Korero Press’s Sex and Horror art book series (the previous volume being a showcase of fellow “sexy fumetti” artist Emanuele Taglietti), the works of Biffignandi are given a comprehensive showcase in all their full, over-the-top glory.

From a very early age, Biffignandi developed a fascination with the way illustrations were put together, and he soon took to copying drawings from comics and albums as he developed his visual craft. He eventually attended an art college in Rome, and by the early 1960s had undertaken his career in professional illustration.

Besides showcasing his artwork, this book contains a wealth of informative text and behind-the-scenes images. An appreciative introduction by Mark Alfrey leads into a comprehensive biography of the artist. Subsequent chapters split up his work into an overview of his professional commitments to various comics and magazines.

There are also a number of photographs from Biffignandi’s studio, showing some of his models posing for their twisted visual interpretations, including a humorous one of Biffignandi himself standing in for a masked, pincer-wielding fiend in a torture chamber.

Biffignandi’s oil paintings are lurid and frequently a bit disturbing, but then, their interpretations are all in the eye of the beholder. Overwhelmingly, the majority of them feature very objectified portrayals of women, nearly all of whom are naked or nearly so, and very frequently in quite suggestive or aggressively vulgar positions of eroticism.

For example, the February, 1989 issue of comic series Superfumetti, the cover features a man dressed in red tights, cape, and horned cowl, grinning through clenched teeth as he flails a whip down upon a screaming woman’s upraised backside.

For a series called La Peccatrice (1984–1986), Biffignandi portrayed the sexual adventures of an early 20th-century woman named Candida, frequently finding herself in violent and surreal experiences with a variety of strange partners, including a whip-wielding dwarf and an elderly man sporting a pair of antlers upon his cranium.

And for the cover piece of the July 1989 issue of Collana Strega, titled La Cattedrale Dei Dannati (“Cathedral of the Damned”), he portrayed a writhing, screaming woman being raped by a goat-headed, winged demon in some kind of stone chamber, with an expression of frightful, yet undeniable, glee upon its grinning face.

As disturbing as they get, Biffignandi’s disquieting pictures are also unquestionably erotic. There’s a palpable sultriness to all the body languages and facial expressions, and while the majority of these pictures will leave many a faint-of-heart viewer squirming, they may also come across as so bizarre and over-the-top to leave others giggling. But of course, with everybody’s tastes to their own, there will no doubt be some who draw certain “other” kinds of reactions from these vivid pictures.

The controversial reactions that these pictures stir in viewers is probably the highest complement that can be paid to Biffignandi.

There’s something to be said for visual art capturing a certain mood; indeed, in many ways, it’s an everlasting, ever-giving game. The controversial, mood-conflicting visions that Alessandro Biffignandi has captured through his art very much have the same impact now as they did in the height of the days of “sexy fumetti,” and with the release of this book, his eye-popping pictures will not be forgotten anytime soon.