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The Steve Keene Art Book: First Art Book Documenting the Most Prolific American Painter of All Time

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

THE STEVE KEENE ART BOOK: Now Available For Pre-Order

First Art Book Documenting the Most Prolific American Painter of All Time arrives June 14 via Hat & Beard + Tractor Beam

“This guy must be the most prolific artist of all time.” - artist Shepard Fairey

There may be many great rock photographers but only one rock n’ roll painter: Steve Keene.

Think you don’t own any of Steve Keene’s artwork? If you’re a fan of Pavement, The Apples in stereo, The Silver Jews or Bonnie Prince Billy, you do.

One of Brooklyn’s most beloved sons, Steve Keene is a legend amongst music fans as much for his cheery, automated style as for his everyman prices of just $5 - $10 each. After a 30+ year career producing over 300,000 paintings, Keene is a pop culture icon and this June heralds the first published collection of his work: The Steve Keene Art Book.

Though perhaps best-known for his deep ties to the 90s indie rock scene, Keene has chosen to immortalize some of the greatest names in rock/pop music including David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Roxy Music, The Clash, Patti Smith, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Beastie Boys. But the heart of his work will always belong to indie rock artists like Pavement, Bonnie Prince Billy, The Arcade Fire, Minor Threat, Husker Du, and Joy Division.

“I consider myself as more of an installation artist,” confides Keene. “If people see fewer than, like, 800 of my paintings at one time, I think they don’t get it.” [Photos, clockwise from top: Pavement "Wowee Zowee" (alternate, book version); The Apples in stereo: ‘Fun Trick Noisemaker’; "I Miss The Earth So Much, I Miss My Wife" (1996); Photo & Video Credits: Daniel Efram ]

For someone operating outside of the traditional art world, Keene has shown his work at some of its most prestigious galleries, museums and fairs including Frieze New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art (LA), Marlborough Gallery (NY), Museum Goch (Germany), and the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art (Melbourne). The book was born from a 2016 exhibition at legendary artist Shepard Fairey’s own Subliminal Projects gallery in Los Angeles.

“Keene’s mass-produced approach to making and selling art meant that my friends and I could actually afford to buy artwork for the first time,” says Daniel Efram, who produced the book. “It’s hard to imagine now just how revolutionary that was; you could go to a gig on the lower east side of NYC and buy a piece of original art. For five bucks! Who couldn’t afford five bucks?”

Efram, a music and media producer and photographer who has developed live projects, documentary films and television for stage and screen, began working with Keene back in the ’90s after seeing his work at NYC legendary downtown performance space, Threadwaxing Space. He curated Steve Keene’s Brooklyn Experience at the Brooklyn Public Library when Keene was artist-in-residence in 2014.

Efram started photographing Keene’s art for the Subliminal Projects show in 2016, and continued cataloging works for the book, including paintings from dozens of personal collections. The book includes long-form essays and insight into Keene’s life, space and process, and would not have been possible without support from over 600 fans on Kickstarter. The Steve Keene Art Book collects commentary, essays and quotes from rock stars like Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Will Oldham, and members of Superchunk, insight and anecdotes from artists Ryan McGinness and Fairey, as well as personal stories from journalists, collectors, art-world insiders and devoted fans around the world. Nearly the same size as the LP that Keene worships, it is a love letter to the most prolific American artist of all time from his adoring public.

Steve Keene, painting in his Brooklyn studio chain link fence "cage" (Photo: Daniel Efram)
Steve Keene, painting in his Brooklyn studio chain link fence "cage"

The book features essays by musician Hilarie Bratset (The Apples in stereo), writer Sam Brumbaugh, Elle Chang, Efram, Shepard Fairey, journalist Karen Loew, McGinness and Christina Zafiris, along with comments from Starling Keene, curators Jonathan LeVine, Leo Fitzpatrick and Talia Logan, alongside a dazzling 277 photographs of Keene’s works. Efram takes readers into Keene’s utilitarian chain-link “painting cage” for an all-access pass for a peek into the artist’s fascinating systemic technique.

The Steve Keene Art Book was designed by Grammy-nominated graphic designer Henry Owings, who has worked with Unwound, Lee Hazlewood, Mr. Show, Charley Patton, Pylon and the Jesus Lizard, among others. It was edited by Gail O’Hara, editor-in-chief of the “legendary indie nerd bible” chickfactor. She was the music editor at Time Out New York, and an editor at SPIN, ELLEgirl, Kinfolk, Washington City Paper, and EW.

Specific details of book:

$95 // Hardcover // 264 pages Published by Hat & Beard and Tractor Beam Pre-Order Date: January 25 / Official Pub Date: June 14 “Whether they realize it or not, most rock fans of the past 20-odd years,

especially indie rock fans, already know the work of artist Steve Keene.” - Variety

"Warhol claimed he wanted to be a machine, but Keene IS a machine." - artist Ryan McGinness

For more about Steve or to see some of his work, click on this documentary playlist:

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