Black Icons

Talk about a one-tack mind… Harlem artist recreates images of black icons with over 50,000 thumbtacks

He calls it ‘The Tackover’ – a canvas pricked with over 7,000 thumbtacks that form a meditative image of hip-hop icon Jay-Z.

Artist Andre Woolery utilises everyday objects to produce meticulously rendered renditions of black icons in pop culture.

His Mixtape series, in which he also recreates images of Kanye West, Jimi Hendrix, President Barack Obama and a $100 bill, was curiously inspired by the colourful rings of breakfast cereal Fruit Loops.

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Mr Woolery explains on his website: ‘I originally sat in my apt/studio looking for materials that had vibrant colors and considered cereal as my medium. Luckily I moved away from Toucan Sam when I found a mixed color pack of thumbtacks.’

After a scavenger hunt at several office suppliers, the artist had found a colourful array of tools to use as his medium.


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To keep the tacks in place on the canvas, Mr Woolery adheres an expanding foam spray to the back of the canvas.


The rest, he says, was tack-by-tack trial and error.

‘Every “pixel” was a lesson in spacing, light, and colour to create the vision of Mr Shawn Carter,’ he says.

Inspired: The image of Kanye West is meant to compliment ‘The Tackover’ piece, and is part two of what Mr Woolery calls the Watch the Throne collection, named after the rappers’ collaborative album by the same name

‘Tacks on Tacks on Tacks’: The rendering of Kanye West required over 7,000 thumbtacks

The original image of the hip-hop mogul, measuring 36 x 48in, sells for $7,633, or $1 per thumbtack.

Breaking what he calls his ‘typical medium’ of oil paint, Mr Woolery has also fashioned images of several other prominent figures in black culture.

A 48 x 108in replica of the one hundred dollar bill, entitled ‘It’s All About the Benjamins’, replaces Benjamin Franklin with Benjamin Banneker, a free African-American who was an accomplished astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, almanac author and farmer.

‘This piece is meant to play with the ideas of currency, the power of the mind and the place that black people hold in United States history. American history represented by the paper we trade is an exclusionary tactic,’ Mr Woolery says.

‘It’s All About the Benjamins’: A 48 x 108in replica of the $100 bill replaces Benjamin Franklin with Benjamin Banneker

Ambitious: The canvas is pricked with a painstaking 23,850 clear, green, silver and black thumbtacks

‘With this piece I hope to encourage everyone to abandon some of the importance of the other Benjamin and trade in for the currency of thought and history that black people represent. Only when we chase intellectual excellence will money begin to chase you – creating something more powerful,’ he explains.

It was an ambitious undertaking, he says, requiring 23,850 clear, green, silver and black thumbtacks.

A portrait entitled ‘Wet Paint’ forms an image of President Obama, a tribute Mr Woolery says, to maintaining the possibility that a black child can grow up with the hope to follow in his footsteps, ‘primed with the reality that a black man can be president’.

The 36 x 48in canvas, is dotted with over 9,000 gold, silver and bronze thumbtacks, and was named with the idea that ‘the wet paint that Obama has painted will not dry for many years as it is still soaking into the canvas of America’s mind’.

The artist: Andrew Woolery stands in front of his Mixtape series of thumbtack portraits

Other works in the series – which together used a combined 50,000 thumbtacks – include Kanye West, ‘Tacks on Tacks on Tacks’, and Jimi Hendrix, ‘Electric Feel’.

A percentage of many of Mr Woolery’s pieces go to good causes including the Harlem School of Arts in an effort to give back to underprivileged communities and to support the arts.

Meanwhile, his thumbs are recovering.

‘I am now an expert on thimbles and own a thumb specific ice pack,’ he says, laughing off his painstaking work on the the nine-foot $100 bill: ‘I had to ice my thumbs and elbow every night so I could continue pushing pins.’


~ by Colorful Soul on 01/28/2012.

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