Highlighting the mismatch of Henry Kissinger’s socks to designing album covers for the shabby-genius pub rockers Earl Brutus, Art Works by Scott King is a retrospective book of his art and designs punctuated by the biographical and candid cultural eye of Jon Savage.
King’s work spans a career from Art Director of i-D Magazine in the early 90s and Creative Director of Sleaze Nation in the late 90s, designing Pet Shop boys covers, exhibiting in galleries worldwide and designing CRASH! a fanzine produced jointly with Matthew Worley.
It’s no secret that commerce, a force more potent than Stephen Hawking’s imagined black holes, can extract, redesign and package anything that can equate to making a profit. Often in his work, King dissects this mechanism, makes pin-ups of cultural mores and iconic imagery to reveal an oblique comic gene hidden in the process. In his book we see Karl Max’s bust on display at one of King’s exhibitions decorated in the 70s slap of Roy Wood from Wizard. ‘YOO-HOO! - COMRADE’ in giant letters fills the background. Should we be laughing?
While attending a series of lectures at the Marx Memorial Library in London, King was struck by the visual similarity of the huge bust of Karl Marx looming behind the speakers to early-70s glam rocker Roy Wood of the Birmingham band, Wizzard. King began to wonder, ‘What if that was Roy Wood’, ‘What if these academics were gathered here today to discuss “See My Baby Jive” by Wizzard’, and ‘What if Roy Wood had been one of the founding fathers of communism?’
Much of his art draws on popular political imagery, though he claims not to be especially political himself. "Most of the stuff I've done that is deemed political is actually about the failure of a certain kind of political ideology," says King. "It's about the failure of the left, mainly. So things like Cher Guevara and the Angry Brigade Tea Towels are really about the commodification of once meaningful imagery and gestures."
King’s Cher Guevara appearing on a recent front cover of the Sunday Times Magazine is the manifest embodiment of how far the irony of this ‘failure’ goes. Now on display at the Saatchi Gallery, beneath it the gallery text reads:
‘Reminiscent of Warhol’s screen print portraits… King’s Cher stands in for counter-culture hero Che Guevera, a rebel-icon and its lost meaning, long dissipated by mass reproduction. Emblazoned in acid-house pink, left-wing radicalism becomes fused with celebrity obsession, a contemporary by-product of cultural dysmorphia. Nostalgic of the politicised youth of Thatcher’s Britain, now recaptured and packaged as fashion.’
‘Arrgghhh! ‘Nostalgia of the politicised youth of Thatcher’s Britain, now recaptured and packaged as fashion‘. Perhaps King found the inspiration in such subtle truths to dedicate a whole page of his new book to the hand drawn and photocopied artwork entitled, Alcoholic’s Colouring Book. Should we be crying? Read the book, buy the Tea Towel then go to the pub…
Art Works by Scott King is out now. Click the link below to buy.
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