A groundbreaking album can, with some artful sleeve design, become even more iconic than it otherwise might have been. But the opposite can also be true: some truly great albums have absolute crap covers. The online contemporary art store Hen’s Teeth Prints, along with This Greedy Pig and Choice Cuts, wondered what sort of album designs labels and artists would create if there were no boundaries in releasing an album from past or present.
The result is Fantasy 12”, a project that pairs labels with artists and designers—like Nick Gazin (VICE, Run the Jewels), Glen E. Friedman (The Beastie Boys), Ian Anderson (Warp Records), and others—to see what sort of album cover redesigns they can produce. All told 15 album sleeves get reimagined, including PiL’s Metalbox, John Coltrane’s Love Supreme and D’Angelo’s Voodoo.
Hen’s Teeth Prints' Greg Spring tells The Creators Project that the original idea was to do an album sleeve “cutting room floor” project. This grew out of a chat with Stone Throw Records art director Jeff Jank, who said that Madlib had been very hands off during the album design process, but label heads had interfered, nixing dozens of great sleeve iterations that will never see the light of day. Hen’s Teeth Prints didn’t quite click with labels, so they tweaked it to the current Fantasy 12” idea.
“We sat down and picked our favorite record covers of the past 30 years and reached out to the designers responsible,” Spring says. “Thankfully most heads that we contacted were in to the idea and said yes. We got a mix of photographers, illustrators and designers, so they all produced the work in a different way,” he adds.
Spring even managed to get legendary Nigerian artist and designer Lemi Ghariokwu to contribute to the project. Ghariokwu designed 26 album covers for Fela Kuti, putting his life at risk in the process, but also created sleeves for Bob Marley, and Britain-based DJ, label boss, and record collector, Gilles Peterson. For Fantasy 12”, Ghariokwu reimagined Fela Kuti & Egypt '80's album, Big Blind Country.
Another participant in Fantasy 12” is Stephen Serrato, the art director for Flying Lotus’ 2014 album, You’re Dead! While Serrato’s work on You’re Dead! is maximalist and psychedelic, his redesign of Frankie Reyes’ Technoindigenous Studies EP No.1 is minimal with a fragment of an ancient sculpture occupying most of the sleeve’s space on a white background.
"The show is a love letter to our favorite record covers and the artists who created them,” Spring says. “I guess it’s reminding ourselves how important the visual is to a record—how it stays with you almost as much as the music does."
Spring says that Hen’s Teeth Prints will be exhibiting the reimagined album cover works as giclee prints at The Copper House Gallery. The Fantasy 12” exhibition opens October 13th, and opening night will ring in a week of live music, talks, DJ sets, screenings, and record fairs.
Click here to see more of Hen’s Teeth Prints' online art offerings, and to purchase Fantasy 12” prints.