Visual Culture: Darhil Crooks, Part few

March 24, 2010

words by Eddie STATS Houghton Photobucket Our epic Q&A with the art director of Esquire magazine  (and Gargamel music!) continues in Darhil Crooks: Part II, the Electric Boogaloo…in this segment, Mr. Crooks gets into some of the particular challenges facing visual artists in the Jamaican community as well as highlights of his design career, from Dave Chappelle rocking his Lee Perry t-shirt to his detachable Obama head. LU: One thing I’ve been trying to wrap my head around is the imbalance between visual culture and musical culture In Jamaica. I mean Bob Marley is the famous one but if you compare the number of other musicians on his level from Jamaica to the number of Neville Garricks… DC: Yeah, I mean definitely it’s not known for visual arts but–Edna Manley for instance, she was an amazing sculptor but you’d never know. It’s overshadowed by the music or maybe there’s not any proper channels for people to get their stuff out. Other than the Edna Manley school I don’t think there’s any other art schools, necessarily–there might be some classes you could take at UWI. Then there’s the issue with interest in visual arts as a career, cause I know with my parents they didn’t see it as a career. Even when I was going to art school my dad thought I was going to be drawing people’s pictures in Central Park, he thought that’s what an art career was. He didn’t realize there was a whole industry built around–not just art but design and everything that goes with it. I’m sure there’s people doing that in Jamaica, I’m not saying that, but its not necessarily people’s focus. When they see Jamaica as a whole they see music or Usain Bolt they don’t see all this other stuff going on. Photobucket Q: So when you were having that struggle with your parents did you have some other role model for being an artist? A: Not really, I was always into art I just figured what I should be doing is going to art school cause I wasn’t interested in going and taking a class in economics when I loved doing art. Q: Did your parents want you to go into economics? A: No, I’m sure they wanted me to go into…nah, I’m not even going to say that, they were very supportive about me going to art school. They had their worries, but I’m not gonna say they discouraged me. They had concerns. They maybe expected me to go to University of Illinois or something but they knew I loved art and were very supportive. My dad’s support came with a little worry, but what parent doesn’t worry about their kids? There was no real role model or career path, other than the CD packaging desire. I was always into comic books too, so that was like my only career inspiration at that point was comic books, anything visual… Photobucket Q: So I know you’re comfortable in a lot of different mediums by professional necessity, but if someone gave you a million-dollar grant to go crazy, visually, what would you do? A: Well if you have a million dollars out there, citizens of the world…I love the tactile stuff. I love silkscreen, love the way it looks. I’m not necessarily as interested in web design or programming as I am in the tactile things. Q: Don’t duck the question, what would you do with a million dollars? A: Damn…Silkscreen posters, I guess. Go throughout the world and put them up in all the neighborhoods–you know like in City of God? When I go to some of these places, I want to do something inspirational and just blow their minds away, kids who are unexposed to the stuff we’re exposed to. Some people in the world don’t travel outside of their little–let alone five blocks, maybe one block, because it’s too dangerous. Why not get some of this good art and design–stuff we take for granted, that we can look at with the click of a button—to those people. That’s what I would do (laughs) I would change the world with nicely-designed posters. Q: Professionally you sometimes handle the same content in a lot of different forms, is that something you enjoy? A: It’s just the nature of the world we are in, you got to do things across all these media just to get the message out, you got to do the promotional tee, you got to do the titles for the promotional video–for everything you work on in the magazine. You just have to do that stuff to keep things on people’s minds. But I do enjoy it. Especially when you see somebody wearing your t-shirt, that’s the dopest shit ever. You know, I used to have a t-shirt company and saw somebody wearing it, somebody that like, we didn’t know. They were just wearing this t-shirt– they actually went and bought this t-shirt cause they thought it was dope. I went and called my boy like, I can’t believe it! I just saw somebody wearing the Lee Perry t-shirt. Aaah! And then it’s like alright, we didn’t make any money…but it was cool. Dave Chappelle wore one of our t-shirts, with Radio Raheem on it. Photobucket Q: Was it a specific line of tees? A: Yeah we had a company; Foundation T-shirts. We started off doing street fairs and stuff. Q: So Lee Perry, Radio Raheem, who else made the hall of fame? A: We did a couple of just typographic ones. We did one with an old soundsystem photo that I found somewhere and on the back it said “Nobody move, nobody get hurt.” One that said “Top Rankin.” A Junior Murvin one with the lyric “Police and Thieves.” A Lion of Judah one…it was a lot of reggae inspired stuff, come to think of it Q: Have you had any other notable side hustles? A: The t-shirt thing and right now the non-profit work. I am working with this organization DesigNYC which links non-profits with artists, architectural firms and stuff like that; give people a chance to have solid design or architecture in their environment, people that normally wouldn’t have the oppurtunity. Personally, I’m working with this group called the Bed-Stuy farm share. What they do is, there’s a farm in upstate NY where they grow all the produce and bring it down to Bed-Stuy–which if you’ve ever lived in Bed-Stuy like I have, you know there’s no vegetables. The bodega has an apple, an orange and like, some lettuce maybe. The rest is all processed food  so what they’re trying to do is get people to think about eating healthy and eat fruit, trying to educate people. I’m redesigning a bulletin that they have, that they’ll hand out to people at grocery stores and restaurants. Photobucket Q: What are your own favorites from your portfolio? A: Definitely Buju, probably some of my old Source stuff, when I was just really excited, there’s a whole level of euphoria when you’re new at something. Esquire is more a summation of all the lessons learned. Q: Are their particular spreads or pages in Esquire you’re proud of? A: It’s tough to look back on work like, This is best thing I’ve ever done. I always say to myself it could’ve been better if XYZ… Photobucket Q: See, I love my own work. A: (Laughs) Well, you know…it has to get out at a certain time and then you can’t look at it anymore, that’s how it is for me. Q: What about ones that stand out in your mind because of the process or the war stories behind the scenes? A: Yeah, I mean there’s been some things like that. One I love, that I commissioned after Barack Obama, is like one of those figurine kind of things? Not like a (posable) action figure but one of those collectibles. I got the head. The guy who made it he sent me the head and the mold. It was cool because it was like, How do we approach Obama without showing a picture or doing a painting? So I just found this guy and was like, Yo can you do this? And he spent like 72 hours just working on this thing non-stop to get it to us in time. He drove down from Rochester or some place, drove 3 hours to deliver this thing and people were just blown away by it. I was like, Wow. This actually worked out. Photobucket For more of Darhil’s work check his online portfolio: