In a pivotal moment where commerce, pop culture, and sports converged, Michael Jordan's dominance spilled from the hardwood onto our cultural landscape. We witnessed the transformation of athlete to brand, to something even greater—a signifier of sheer will to win, the Jumpman 23.
So it's not surprising that even as he celebrated the big five-oh this year, his aura still radiates. As a birthday gift to the man himself, the Jordan brand approached the creative media and design agency Doubleday & Cartwright, and handed them the task of putting together a private, one-night-only art exhibit of Jordan's storied life, held over NBA all-star weekend, at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. The project objective: to parse out the Jordan legend into 50 stories to be interpreted visually by 50 different artists, including projects by Grotesk, Rich Tu, David Rathman, Gustavo Dao, Ryan Dugan, Sophia Chang, Jason Jagel, and Lola Dupre, among others. A one-off book of the exhibit will be presented to MJ as well.
DD & Cartwright collected first-hand accounts from MJ's intimate associates to create a multidimensional story that cast Jordan not only as the archetypal winner but as someone whose influence shifted our experience of contemporary culture. DD&C's Kimou Meyer assembled a roster of artists who could re-channel '90s culture and sports iconography in the form of a Jordan story. The goal was to illustrate the many dynamics at play in Jordan's life, ranging from the career milestones to insider lore and untold stories. Meyer had only 10 days to do it.
"We had submissions that ranged from realistic portraiture in acrylic paint to minimalist design-based pieces to smoky ink-and-watercolor landscapes," said Meyer. "We even had a rendition of MJ's high school emblem created from chain-stitching, which is basically an antique method for embroidering fabrics, as well as a fictitious cigar box label rendered with pyrography, a method of burning a wooden surface by hand with a hot needle. We assigned everybody a specific topic and story to tell, but beyond that we left it completely open to the artists to interpret those stories in whatever style and material they wanted." Coupled with each visual was a small text blurb, which formed the seed of the story, and was often interspersed with quotes from long-time friends, competitors, and mentors.
Featured in the exhibit was artwork that nodded to MJ's fierce, competitive spirit—his forays into baseball, golf, and motor sports and his request to have a ping-pong table installed at the arena so he could play against fellow teammates and reporters, the "Chicago Breakfast Club." There were some pieces that touched on his pop-culture status, such as his involvement with Spike Lee and his Wheaties box appearances (he’s made more appearances on the box than any other athlete). There were others that cast him as a tastemaker, breaking league uniform rules by wearing red and black shoes, and triumphing in the process. And there were even stories that painted Jordan as a prophetic visionary, as when he boldly predicted to shoe designer Tinker Hatfield that people would be wearing the Jordan 11s with a tuxedo. Soon, Boyz II men were showing off new 11s on the red carpet at the Grammy's.
"Jordan was like a superhero. It was amazing to watch him—in real time—create mind-boggling feats of super-humanity: the hang time and circus shots especially," said SF-based visual artist Jason Jagel, who was asked to contribute to the exhibit. Jagel's assignment was a bit more abstract. As one of the first athletes to shave his head, MJ transformed baldness into style, and Jagel's job was to recreate a Chicago-style barber-shop piece, replete with slang, referential odes, and classic hair-cuts of the time. "I stick my tongue out when I paint," said Jagel. "Not on a Jordan level of course."
Whether it was Jordan himself who changed the relationship between pop culture, sports, and commerce, or if he was simply the first athlete co-opted for multinational marketing is a moot point, according to Meyer. "Regardless, the fact is that he transcended sport and became a cultural icon to an extent that was never seen before and probably hasn't been achieved since. It's a level of influence that you see most athletes aspire to today, but it all began with Mike."
Photographers with a knack for experimentation fashion DIY pinhole cameras from coffee cans, shoe boxes and pretty much any other recycled material they can get their hands on. But Elvis Halilović, the Slovenian industrial designer behind the ONDU pinhole camera, takes a more exacting approach. For his line of six cameras, Halilović uses only locally-sourced chestnut and maple wood, and shapes each camera body in his family's wood shop. His design uses strong magnets instead of visible screws, and he finishes the wood with a natural oil varnish.
Moments of information addiction are inevitable. If you find yourself stuck in a technology loop, endlessly bouncing back and forth between email and Twitter and whatever else you need to check, designer Chelsea Briganti's Blokket bag could help slow you down. The bag's fabric is made of a nylon and silver blend that blocks cell phone reception while keeping your phone out of sight. Although leaving your phone in the bag all day might drain your battery, a few minutes of peace wouldn't hurt. [via BLTD]
Chelsea Briganti is the co-founder of the New York product design studio The Way We See The World. Blokket is in stock at the MoMA store.
For some of us the aughties were all about the emergence, or re-emergence, of dance punk (summed up by James Murphy as "live drums and synthesizers") and no one did it better than DFA, the New York record label founded by James Murphy, Tim Goldsworthy, and the often unsung Jonathan Galkin. Directed by Max Joseph, the vid does a nice tidy job of summing up the label and its sound, artists, and attitude with brevity and a sense of humor—and also gives us a gimpse inside the label offices and studio.
From the same technology that is used to design buildings, Hot Pop Factory, the jewelry line known for its 3D-printed style, has produced yet another interesting collection. The Boreal collection is made with recycled cherry and polymer wood from the Boreal forest in Canada. The collection is as unique as the forest itself; the chain and closure on each necklace appear exceptionally delicate when paired with the bold design of the wood pendant. There are eight different styles available from $74-$98.