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Needles and Pens, opened in June of 2003 by founders Andrew Martin Scott and Breezy Culbertson, has accomplished a lot in the last ten years. As it curated 85 exhibits featuring artists all over the world, published half a dozen books, hosted musical performances, and sold some nifty stuff, the San Francisco based art space/shop established itself as a community hub for artists. To celebrate this success, Needles and Pens hosts an anniversary show at The Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. The opening reception for the show is May 10, 6-9:30pm, includes work from 66 unique artists, as well as musical performances by Tara Jane O'Neil, Strawberry Smog, and WR/DS.

The show will be running until June 8, so make sure to stop by and celebrate a decade of Needle and Pens.

Kate Gibb is known in some circles for her stellar work on Chemical Brothers record sleeves. She's a self-taught printmaker that still works in silkscreen out of her Paddington studio. She recently relaunched her website with an expanded online shop offering limited-edition, signed prints at a reasonable price.

You can also nab a Kate Gibb Collage T-shirt in the Nothing Major online shop.

Visit the new Kate Gibb site online.


Photo by: Dennis Morris, 1977. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, | Sid Vicious

Photos courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/BFAnyc.com

A new Costume Institute exhibition at New York's Met (lasting 100 days—like the first burst of UK punk—from May 9–August 14, 2013) examines early punk's impact on high fashion. And the irony of highbrow taking note of the influence from below has already made the show fertile ground for derision of the fashion biz and bigtime art museums.

It's also been stirring up a passionate conversation online and in the press on what punk was/is all about. Despite attempts to co-opt it and tame it, to own it or define it, here's evidence that punk still provokes, which was originally a big part of the point, anyway.

For critics of the show, it's easy to make the observation that punk music and culture wasn't about taking over the runway and selling brand-name perfume. But a largely homegrown culture having a significant impact on a commercial one isn't really strange.

There are many aspects of punk, too, that make it a perfect fit for high-end fashion art museums, and the mainstream art consumer. Interest in punk as cultural history has grown from being a critical concern for music heads to a regular literary event with memoirs from people like Patti Smith and Richard Hell. And taking cultural explosions from below seriously is much easier after three-plus decades have passed. Punk music, difficult to find in chain retail shops of the '80s, is but a click away now, so curiosity about it for those that missed it during the vinyl era is bubbling over. Punk, from '77 on, had a design and fashion aspect to it, not to mention a "hype" aspect. Its UK look was formalized in a fetish shop by shady impresario Malcolm McLaren, while its DIY ethic produced powerful graphics in flyer design and an individualized fashion within its own ever-shifting code of outsiderness.

Unfortunately, this leaves us with punk icons in punk iconic clothes that we've all seen before juxtaposed against designer duds that only seem vaguely punk. Odd then, that this show promises more to fashion fanatics—who perhaps haven't seen the way designers deliberately borrow from the Blank Generation look every few years—than it does to music fans.  Somewhat logically, the show concentrates on New York and London where the fashion world and punk scenes were in close proximity, but neglects any other spots where punk made early inroads. The show is organized, rather literally, by fashion techniques: DIY Hardware, DIY Bricolage, DIY Graffiti and Agitprop, DIY Destroy. If one has seen those videos of the Clash spray-painting stencils on their clothes, you've seen fashion history in action, evidently. 

For a good read on punk in the context of the exhibit, see New York magazine's recent cover story which offhandly makes the case that, in terms of fashion, punk won and elitism lost.

Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel. Vogue, March 2011. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by David Sims

John Lydon, 1976/ Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Richard Young. Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, 1982. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Peter Lindbergh.

Jordan, 1977. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph from Rex USA.

Rodarte, Vogue, July 2008. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by David Sims.

Richard Hell, late 1970s, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Kate Simon.

Hussein Chalayan 2003, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dazed and Confused, March 2003,Photograph by Eric Nehr.

Eric Lebofsky's new show Cosmos explores the multiverse, ancient aliens, cosmology, and chaos in drawings that sorted themselves into three groupings: the primeval, the chorus, and the totemic ghost-gods. It might sound like the stuff of late night History Channel viewing or pulp novels, but in Lebofsky's hands, the spiritual and the alien mix in a sci-fi universe that the artist has spent some time in. In fact, the exhibit takes its name from a Witold Gombrowicz book, which like Lebofsky's work, uses elements of sci-fi, humor, and eroticism in dense narratives.

Independent curator Eyeball Mansion culled Lebofsky's material (approximately 20 new ink drawings on paper as well as a signed and numbered artist book) for an exhibition which opens Saturday night at Rational Park (2557 W North Ave) in Chicago. The opening is Saturday, April 20th 7-10pm and the show runs through May 11 by appointment.

An artist book with process and finished drawings, as well as a short sci-fi story will be on display and for sale.

Photo by: Sonnenzimmer | Moraine 14

Chicago design and print studio Sonnenzimmer are usually busy hand-making equisitely modern posters, books, and music packaging. For their latest exhibition, opening Friday, April 12 at Public Works, the design and printmaking duo feeds its fine art jones with an investigation of the textures of traditional textiles. The textiles are the result of a collab with recipients of the 2012 Chicago Architectural Prize Club Club. The new works merge hand-woven and screen-printed fabric in a series of quilts, which Sonnenzimmer prints on, naturally. Sonnenzimmer has a book in the works to document the venture.

Opening for "Image Structure" takes place Friday, April 12, 2013, 7pm-10pm at Public Works
R.S.V.P. for the opening on Facebook 


The group show at the Gestalten space in Berlin this month is a celebration of the new infusion of energy we're seeing in print, yes, print publication. It seems, perhaps in light of the Internet content explosion, that designers and publishers have gotten more inventive and creative with print. Gestalten thinks we've entered a new era in print publishing. The "Fully Booked" show celebrates the tactile experience of print and distinctiveness of design, materials, and technique. The show is broken up into roles that print can play: The Storyteller, The Teacher, The Collector, and so on. Featured designers among the 200 include Stefan Sagmeister, David Pearson, L2M3, Made Thought, and many more. Luckily for those that can't make it to Berlin, Gestalten has published Fully Booked: Ink on Paper, 272 pages of print design thrills.

Fully Booked is available at Gestalten.com

Photo by: Gert & Uwe Tobias | Untitled (GUT/2055) 2012

One look at the artwork of Romanian-born twin brothers Gert and Uwe Tobias and we sense that they communicate via a secret code that no one else understands. And that’s what makes their huge paintings, woodcut prints, and drawings so captivating—a lush-colored folklore freak show of sharp, often symmetrical, graphics that meld the duo’s Transylvanian roots with deranged pop culture and sharp Constructivism.

Creepy ghouls with melting faces, jagged flowers, a color-blocked bed with a serrated saw wheel above—the works are slightly horrific, and yet utterly majestic. You can see all of these pieces and more at NYC’s Team Gallery where the Tobias’ exhibition, "Untitled ’13", runs through this Saturday, March 30 in both of Team’s gallery spaces.

Team Gallery: 83 Grand Street & 47 Wooster Street, New York, NY; Tue–Sat 10am–6pm


Signmaker and street artist Jay Shells' new project Rap Quotes annotates NYC locations with homemade traffic signs bearing site specific lyrics from rap tracks. Shells has the installation down to a science: he pops out of his car with a sign, a footstool, and his cell phone, and has each quote hung and tweeted in just a few moments. The tweets aren't just for vanity purposes, he guesses each sign probably won't last longer than a week before another fan steals it, so the quick photos are likely his only record. When asked about the theft, Shells doesn't seem to mind. "It's my gift to you," he says. [via Animal

Although you may not know much about American design duo Gluekit, you’ve likely seen their award-winning work in  New York Magazine, GQ, Nylon, and The New York Times. Since 2002 husband/wife team Christopher Sleboda and Kathleen Sleboda have collaborated to make simple two- and three-dimensional designs, airbrush-y retro illustrations, experimental photo collages, typography, and product lines. Then there’s Part of It, Gluekit’s online boutique that works with artists to create cool T-shirts and totes for various charitable causes. Yeah, they’re busy—and clearly in demand.


Add a current exhibition/pop-up in L.A. to the list. "Long Play," which runs through April 13 at the Scion AV Installation gallery, “confronts the evolving role played by various objects. Modernism and the ethos of the youth crew-era pair off with clichès and classical Greek expressions.” Hmm, we’re not sure what that means, but Gluekit’s new limited-edition products and work will be for sale—skateboards, home décor, and bedding.


Photo by: Jason Jagel | His Royal Airness

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."