Electric Lady Studios, one of the few remaining major recording facilities in New York City, continues to expand its creative endeavors by striking a partnership with the estate of legendary indie singer/songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston.
As part of the new collaboration, Outsider Art Fair will present “Daniel Johnston: Psychedelic Drawings,” an exhibition of over 30 works by the late musician and self-taught artist, at the studio — you can see five examples of the artwork above and below. Thirteen additional Johnston pieces will remain on permanent display in Electric Lady’s Studio A.
The exhibition is featured as part of the 29th edition of the Outsider Art Fair in New York, taking place from January 28th – February 7, 2021 across multiple locations in Manhattan. Due to the pandemic, guests will be able to reserve a time slot to visit the exhibition by purchasing a $15 all-access pass, providing visitors entry to 7 exhibitors across 5 locations throughout the 10-day fair. For those unable to attend physically, there will be an Online Viewing Room, free of charge.
The partnership is overseen by Electric Lady managing partner Lee Foster, who curated a collection of Johnston’s original works currently on display in the facility’s legendary Studio A, including Johnston’s “Symbolical Visions” drawing. Foster will serve as the link between the studio and The Daniel Johnston Trust, which is overseen by Dick Johnston, Daniel’s older brother. Foster serves a similar role as a conservator of Jimi Hendrix, who founded the studio shortly before his death in 1970, and is expanding that role to work with Johnson’s family.
“Art has always been a fixture at Electric Lady, from the large sci-fi, space murals commissioned by Hendrix, to the decoupage installations done here in the early 1970s” Foster says. “I began building my own collection of Daniel’s work and recognized that a separate collection for the studio would be great inspiration for musicians recording here.”
Johnston, who died in 2019, created a vast number of distinctive and often eccentric recordings and artwork that was a key influence on Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. His fans also include David Bowie, Matt Groening, Eddie Vedder, Frank Ocean, Jonah Hill, Mark Ruffalo, Cat Power, Tom Waits, Jack Antonoff and many others.
Rendered in magic marker, Johnston’s drawings were frequently inspired by characters like Casper the Friendly Ghost. “In Johnston’s vocabulary, Satan and Captain America are not jokes; they embody internal virtues, aspirations, fears, and resistance that he himself lived out,” says American illustrator Gary Panter, who curated the OAF.
While Johnston’s work has been exhibited internationally, including the 2006 Whitney Biennial, this tribute is the first survey of his drawings since his passing and the largest exhibition to date.
Last fall, Foster produced a virtual tribute to the beloved artist to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his passing on Sept. 11. Electric Lady Presents “Honey, I Sure Miss You” was viewed more than 120,000 times, and saw intimate, at-home performances from some of Daniel’s most vocal supporters within the music community ranging from Beck, Jeff Tweedy, Phoebe Bridgers, Devendra Banhart and many others along with a previously unreleased home video of Johnston constructing a song.