I contributed three pieces to the current “Hott Sheets” show at the Wonder Fair Gallery in Lawrence. The premise of the show was to have each artist use the same-sized, blank-notecard “sheet” and to do whatever they wanted on that sheet to make it “hott”. For my pieces, I wanted to play with some pop iconography and chose the image of Jay-Z on the June 24, 2010 cover of Rolling Stone.
The first thing I did was cut out Jay-Z’s head from the page and then cut out his sunglasses from his face. The blank space left by cutting out his sunglasses made him look, against the cream-colored hott sheet, kind of robotic, futuristic, all while retaining the iconic look of Jay-Z wearing shades. I then took the sunglasses I’d cut out and placed them under his chin, like a bow-tie and suddenly the iconography seemed as much Malcolm X – sunglasses, snarl,bow-tie – as Jay-Z. So, Jay-X. Someone should make a bow-tie that looks like sunglasses, for real. (The remaining cover, with Jay-Z’s head cut out, I pasted on to the back of Jay-X.)
The Rolling Stone cover with Jay-Z was interesting because it’s actually two covers: the first, with the iconic black sunglasses and pursed lips of the rapper Jay-Z, and the second, on the following page, a disarming portrait of Jay-Z holding his chin, smiling, wearing clear eyeglasses. What I wanted to do for my second hott sheet was to utilize the iconography from the first cover (Jay-Z’s sunglasses and pursed lips) to mask the attempt on the second cover to un-mask him. So I cut out, from another copy of the same magazine, the front cover iconography of Jay-Z’s sunglasses and lips and pasted the sunglasses over his eyeglasses and his pursed lips over his sideways smile (after first cutting out his mouth, creating the blank space of a mouth to dramatize the pasted-on pursed lips). Sorry, Jay-Z – you can’t escape your iconography!
I had one more hott sheet and one more copy of the Jay-Z Rolling Stone. What makes an image of Jay-Z Jay-Z? The sunglasses, for sure, though there’s lot’s of stars with iconic shades – 60’s Bob Dylan, 80’s Michael Jackson. Isolating his shades doesn’t retain the Jay-Z-ness of Jay-Z. But his shades and his lips – plush, pursed lips that peak on his face – lips which, when they part, spit fire, earn him his fame – his shades and his lips, together, minus everything else, make it clear it’s Jay-Z. So I wanted to fuck with that – those two elements which, minus everything else, make him appear as him. I grabbed a stack of a few months worth of Rolling Stone’s and looked for cover images – other iconic faces – that could withstand Jay-Z iconography. The May 27, 2010 cover of Rolling Stone featured, alternately, 1972-era black and white photos of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. On my issue it was Keith Richards. With Jay-Z’s sunglasses covering his eyes and Jay-Z’s lips covering his lips, I thought he looked uncannily like Mick Jagger. So, to sum up this last piece: a March 27, 2010 cover of Rolling Stone featuring a 1972 photo of the Rolling Stone’s Keith Richards with the cut-out sunglasses and lips from the June 24, 2010 cover of Rolling Stone featuring Jay-Z. Mick? Jay-R? Keith-Z? Hott!