NYC counterculture store, Supreme, has paired up with the likes of multi-talented artist and singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston to produce a T-shirt collection featuring Johnston’s iconic illustrations.
During the infamous ‘Summer of ’94’, downtown Manhattan witnessed Supreme’s flagship store opening its doors. Lafayette Street saw its pavements littered with artists, skaters and punks; a crew that subsequently still happen to be the brand’s biggest followers. Fast-forward eight or so years and the label has worked with some of the most innovative photographers, designers, musicians and artists globally. Enter Daniel Johnston.
Born in 1961 Sacramento, California, Johnston spent a lot of his childhood drawing, before taking up music and listening to the sounds of Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, Neil Young, the Sex Pistols and especially The Beatles. As a teen, Daniel and his friends would record their own tapes and tastefully trade them amongst each other. ‘Songs of Pain’ and ‘More Songs of Pain’ were filled with his anguish for Laurie – his long-time crush who eventually married an undertaker. Johnston is well known for his music compositions featured on films as Kids and Where The Wild Things Are.
When I was a kid, probably nine, I used to bang around on the piano, making up horror movie themes. When I got a bit older, I’d be mowing my lawn and I’d make up songs and sing them. No one could hear me ’cause of the lawn mower.’
Artistically, Johnston’s sketches are overwhelmingly-abundant symbolized drawings, which remain impish. Johnston suffers from manic depression (Bipolar Disorder) and Schizophrenia; albeit manifesting itself in demonic obsession – Johnston continues to create art and music, becomming an icon of strength and inspiration for many.
I believe in God, and I certainly believe in the devil. There’s certainly a devil, and he knows my name.
Several months prior to his death Kurt Cobain was numerously pictured wearing a t-shirt with one of Johnston’s illustrations, who on the other end was being institutionalized fully unaware of the publicity he was receiving. In 2005 Director Jeff Feuerzeig went out and shot a documentary titled The Devil and Daniel Johnston which showcases with sincere respect the many faces of Daniel Johnston. The documentary went on to win the Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival of that year.
Johnston has maintained an admirable plethora of work which continues to inspire and move people, gaining fans wherever he treads. After surviving several mental institutions, Johnston still regularly performs gigs, opting to stay at home and focus on his art. His once turbulent lifestyle has been traded for one of more stability, at least for the moment. A collaboration between Supreme and Johnston should undoubtedly intrigue the counterculture of both today and yesterday. Here’s to still fighting those demons.
Words: Kurt Mullins
images: © Complex Corp. c/o of Sony Pictures Classics, Inc.; © Daniel Johnston
Filmography : The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)