Whether they realize it or not, most rock fans of the past 20-odd years — especially indie rock fans — already know the work of artist Steve Keene. He designed the cover of Pavement’s “Wowee Zowee” album and his often music-centric work was commissioned and sold by musicians ranging from Dave Matthews to the Apples in Stereo, but his work was sold at many concerts and is on the walls of countless apartments, offices and record stores — his art even appeared on the wall of a character’s apartment in Hulu’s reboot of “High Fidelity” last year.
However, the monumentally prolific Keene is not the relentless self-promoter the above might seem to suggest; he tends to keep his head down and his eyes on the next project. But finally, a retrospective of sorts is in the works: “The Steve Keene Art Book: Live from Subliminal Projects LA, CA” is the first-ever art book attempting to tell the story of Keene’s career by showcasing the complete work from his blockbuster 2016 show at Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects gallery.
This book began its crowdfunding campaign on April 28, 2021 and is already 40% funded — see the Kickstarter link and an accompanying video here. The campaign has announced a new educational outreach component where supporters have a choice of pre-ordering the production of two books: one for their personal collection and one being serviced to underserved public and school libraries, where Keene’s process and ethos can be discovered by art students and historians.
The fast-working Keene has famously churned out approximately 300,000 art pieces over the past 30-odd years, averaging 40-60 pieces on his most productive days. He starts by cutting up the plywood pieces that he uses as “canvases,” then paints color by color, layer by layer, until they are completed. Later that week they will be packaged up for sales; he usually sells six random pieces for $70.
“The Steve Keene Art Book” will cover every art piece that Keene delivered to Shepard Fairey for the Subliminal Projects show, over 230 distinctly different album tributes (and over 800 pieces for the show in total). The book is being produced by artist manager/”advocate” Daniel Efram, who is also a photographer. The two have worked together for many years, first on the album artwork for “Threadwaxing Space Live: The Presidential Compilation 1993-1994” on Zero Hour Records.