Welcome to Fartwork, a new CREEM column where we explore the visual artwork of musicians. (Like Artforum, for dummies.) In our second installment, we take a look at the art of Brandon Boyd, the singer of Incubus. (And if you like it, check out our inaugural edition, on Paul Stanley of KISS, here. Then read more about the band KISS in our extensive archive, because death is inevitable. For you. Not them. They’ll live forever.)
I’m not a fan of Incubus. I refer to them as “that band that I get mixed up with Linkin Park” (vice versa with Linkin Park, who I get mixed up with Incubus). I don’t know—I’m dumb. I get east and west mixed up all the time, too. But both bands write songs that sound like three or four different songs played at the same time. They can’t seem to settle on whether it’s funky metal, hip-hop, impassioned emo, or just a whole bunch o’ cuttin’ n scratchin’. On paper, that looks like something I’d be attracted to—a musical portmanteau—but, for whatever reason, I don’t enjoy either band’s execution. I’m not on the ’bus.
And that’s perhaps why I don’t really take any interest in Brandon Boyd’s artwork: I’m not a fan of Incubus. Brandon’s art isn’t bad, there are some interesting pieces in his collection, but without the Incubus connection—which I don’t have—it’s unremarkable. And that’s a crucial ingredient in the musician-cum-artist trajectory, that includes two significant advantages that the average artist does not enjoy:
2. A built-in fanbase.
There’s a sense that the celebrity musician-artist “cheated” to get where they are. They didn’t pay their dues because their artwork, much like a Kardashian, was born in celebrity-dom and thus has immediate value. And they have the money to not only support their hobby, but also market it. We shouldn’t begrudge them their privilege as long as they return the favor by recognizing their advantage.
There’s nothing to be jealous of because celebrity art will always be cursed. It will be admired and adored by their fans, but it will never be worthy of consideration by the REAL Art World (whatever that means). Blue Chip galleries like Gagosian, Zwirner, H&W, etc. simply don’t traffic this kind of contraband. This is the kind of work that hangs at the Hard Rock Café (as some of Boyd’s work did at one time) and is shown in “lowbrow” art publications like Juxtapoz and Hi Fructose (you know, art’s punk rock/underground culture that regards the established, mainstream Art World with disdainful envy).
I’d be curious if Brandon Boyd’s work would be accepted by the lowbrow magazines if he submitted his portfolio anonymously? My guess is, no, it would be rejected, but I appreciate that Boyd is aware of his advantage. When asked in a Forbes if he thinks other artists resent his rockstar status he said, “I have no qualms about it, and it feels like an authentic expression for me, but I’m perhaps being judged a little bit more steeply than another artist because I am coming from a different world. And the notion is that I’m just sort of taking the wind from a successful career somewhere else and trying to parlay it into something else, which I’m not not doing. But I am truly interested in being the best I know how to be at my craft and being as authentic as I know how to be.”
We are judging steeply here.
These abstracts were the first works I saw by Boyd and the ones that I like best. I enjoy the spiraling, the swirling, the movement, they look like 'lil self-contained balls of croissant chaos (I see croissants). I even like the title, “Vinculum,” which means:
1. Anatomy: a connecting band of tissue, such as that attaching a flexor tendon to the bone of a finger or toe.
2. Mathematics: a horizontal line drawn over a group of terms in a mathematical expression to indicate that they are to be operated on as a single entity by the preceding or following operator.
They’re interesting, but really they’re just doodles over a watercolor wash and I feel they’re overpriced at $1,400 each for a small 8” x 8” scribble in a frame ($4,800 for all four).
These are newer, more mature iterations of the style we first encountered in the “Vinculum” series. Larger and strategically chaotic in their compositions, Boyd’s “Microdose” paintings focus on croissantic (?) ensembles of exuberant visual vocabularies interacting in spatiotemporal environments that seem to deconstruct grand ideological narratives, resist direct readings, and instead, create space for an associative richness by retaining a paradoxical sense of cosmic order and illegibility. (I have no idea what that means, I just pinched some jibber jabber from an Artforum article. How do you write that many words without saying anything?)
In my own words, they remind me of work from the Beautiful Losers movement in the '90s by the likes of Thomas Campbell, Phil Frost, and Mark Gonzales—“Microdose #2,” in fact, resembles a classic Gonz graphic as if it had been sent through a woodchipper. As such, much of Boyd’s work evokes the styles of the surf/skate/snow communities and thus resembles something you’d see in a Volcom or RVCA x Incubus collab apparel collection. I’d rock a Microdose tote bag. I like to imagine, however, that Boyd’s artistic ambitions are higher than emblazoning commercial merchandise, but then he does sell some peculiar merch on his site including a jigsaw puzzle—$46 for a jigsaw puzzle?
“Nicole In Gold” and “Heart Of Gold”
Unlike our first subject in this column, Paul Stanley, it’s obvious that Brandon has some skill with the brush. His paintings of women are well-composed, his subjects have personality, and they’re very pretty. But that could be said of any portrait of a woman: women are beautiful. It reminds me of the conundrum created by college photography 101 students who visit their local graveyard and try to capture “the romance of decay” in the gargoyles and angel statues. Is it art when it’s just a picture of someone else’s art? I don’t think so, but it displays a strategy redolent of contemporary cuisine: start with beautiful ingredients and you’ll end up with a beautiful dish. This is also why I take exception to florists. What exactly is it that you do? Flowers are gorgeous on their own and nature does not require your “arrangements.” You can slap any ol’ group of flowers together and it’s going to look nice. I’ve gone into Trader Joe’s and consciously tried to put together an ugly bouquet from their ample buckets of flowers and the worst I could achieve was “handsome."
A rose is a rose is a rose.
And lastly, we have a piece that is essentially a synthesis of everything we’ve looked at: a portrait of a woman embellished with doodle/graf strokes (which I like to imagine were inspired by Incubus’ turntablist, DJ Kilmore, seen here at “Scratchlactica”—which is an even better word than Vinculum. “K. I. L. are the letters of his name, cuttin’ and scratchin’ are the aspects of his game.”)
Brandon Boyd’s stuff is good, but not great. It reminds me of the kind of work you’d see at an upscale gallery in an adorable little tourist village that you can recognize as an OFFICIAL adorable little tourist village because its downtown shopping district is replete with at least one fudge shop, a handful of art galleries, and a store where old ladies can purchase old lady negligees. (Laguna Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea, and Martha’s Vineyard are lovely examples.) Brandon’s work would be shown in the adorable little tourist village’s contemporary gallery that’s known for curating art a little on the racy side. Some of the old ladies in the negligee society might even say Brandon’s paintings are too racy, and write an angry letter to the city council.
We hope Boyd continues progressing and enjoying making art. To learn more about Brandon Boyd’s work, visit www.brandonboyd.me/.