For Raoul Duke fans, the highlight of Select Fair, which opens on West 18th Street today at noon, has to be this Hunter S. Thompson bust, carved by Alex Queral from three glued-together phonebooks.
The Baltimore-based artist, who was born in Cuba and then migrated as a young boy to Mexico and then Miami, has been taking X-ACTO knives to White Pages since he was an undergrad at University of Washington in ’95.
Working at a speed of about two portraits a month, he’s done counterculture legends like Salvador Dali, R. Crumb, John Waters, and Jerry Garcia; comics like Rodney Dangerfield and Pee-Wee Herman; politicos like Che Guevara, Michael Moore, and Jimmy Carter; the list goes on and on. Aside from HST, which was going for $3,500, the other one on display at last night’s VIP preview of Select was Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Frank Hyder of Miami/Philly-based Projects Gallery, which reps Queral, explained the artist’s process: “He starts carving into the phonebook when they’re soft and as he carves in, he glues the pages together as he’s going back.” He touches up the busts with a bit of acrylic paint and — in the case of HST — rolls up some pages to make a Dunhill cigarette. Then the whole thing is coated in acrylic medium for posterity.
Queral wasn’t the only one whose quirky portraits were on display. Downstairs, Bushwick-based British artist David Hollier was showing his paintings of famous types, most of them rendered in their own words.
JFK’s face was composed of words from his “President and the Press” address.
Teddy Roosevelt’s consisted of words from his “Strenuous Life” speech.
And there were prints of two commissioned pieces: Kurt Cobain’s face was made from the lyrics to “Sliver” and “Dumb,” and Jim Morrison’s from the lyrics to “Break On Through” and “The End.”
Hollier created this portrait of David Bowie by typing the lyrics to “Space Oddity” with an old Smith Corona, striking the keys harder for darker shadows.
Oh! And Hollier has his own portrait of Dr. Thompson, though it wasn’t displayed at Select. Given the gonzo phonebook, that was probably a good call.