'(UN)known Icons' explores the construction of celebrity and influence through four pivotal figures from the 1960’s/70’s New York City counterculture.
Combining streetart and traditional Asian style, Wakuda creates a fusion that is both modern and timeless. With '(UN)known Icons' he merges stencil graffiti technique with classical Japanese kabuki portraits to reimagine the likes of Andy Warhol, Brian Jones, Steve Paul, and David Bowie. All of these figures influenced the world around them, but each did so in very different ways.
Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust was the original inspiration for the Icons set. Upon watching a film of his 1972 London performance (in kimono), Wakuda was struck by the parallels between his character and aspects of traditional kabuki performance- the artist began to think of other icons in the same era, and how they realized their identities would be perceived over the course of time.
While Bowie transitioned on from the Ziggy character (note the subtle ‘Spiders from Mars’ background), Andy Warhol never lost the wig and other accessories that defined him- from the precise pose of the hand on his chin, to the camera always at the ready. The parallels between traditional Japanese ukiyo-e and Warhol’s 20th century studies in color and repetition are finally connected here.
Wakuda fully explores the spectrum from unknown to icon with the five print series ‘Becoming Andy.’ Warhol begins as almost unrecognizeable- lacking any of the distinguishing characteristics and accessories that complete him, even the famous wig. But over the next four prints, the iconic details gradually fade in and stranger becomes celebrity.
On the other side of the spectrum, the publicly low-key Steve Paul’s critical eye and sharp wit made him a celebrity’s celeb. As a tastemaker for his NYC venue, ‘The Scene,’ Paul created an environment where many future legends gestated. Warhol himself designed posters for the club, and the infamous owner was always standing guard outside, his ever present joint in hand.
Finally, Wakuda uses the tragic figure of Brian Jones to examine genius and self destruction with this ‘forgotten’ icon. As founder of the Rolling Stones, Jones is still lesser known because he died, drowned in a swimming pool, before the height of the band’s fame. Known for his flamboyant outfits and consumption of psychedelic drugs, he is depicted in classic Kabuki actor style. But the variations in the paintings bring different interpretations- pill in hand, Jones seems either lost within another epic trip, or standing before his watery grave.