Armed with razor blade and a fiendish wit, Winston Smith’s modus operandi since the 1970’s has been to kidnap “innocent” images from the pages of vintage magazines and then to diabolically glue them into compromising or politically revealing positions in his surreal collage landscapes. “Truly subversive artwork” wrote the SF Weekly in a review of Smith’s first book Act Like Nothing’s Wrong. “Perhaps the most vibrant collage maestro since Max Ernst,” wrote popular underground artist Frank Kozik, who goes on to credit Winston with being “single-handedly responsible for an entire generation¹s graphic style.”
Winston first came to infamy by way of his hard hitting political shock piece, Idol – a “bowling trophy style” Jesus nailed to a cross of dollars that was used for the Dead Kennedys’ album In God We Trust, Inc. That album, which was subsequently banned in England and condemned by the American Religious Right, landed Smith and Dead Kennedys a permanent spot in the punk culture hall of shame.
Two decades down the line, Winston’s style continues to have political punch, but has also developed an almost classical surrealism. His recent album cover for Tijuana No!’s – Contra Revolucion Avenue has been called the collage equivalent of a cross between Picasso’s “Guernica” and the social realism of a Diego Rivera WPA-era mural. Another fine example of his new style is Apocalypse Wow!, a full page spread commissioned by SPIN magazine that depicts a swirling end-of-the-world populated with a mind-blowing array of whimsical images from sword carrying angels to flying poodles.
Smith, once known only to DK fans and the punk underground cognoscenti, has been gaining popularity in mainstream culture. He’s had one-man shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London and Rome. His debut book, Act Like Nothing’s Wrong, published in 1994 by Last Gasp of San Francisco was favorably reviewed a wide variety of regional and national magazines. His eighteen month sojourn as illustrator for SPIN magazine’s Topspin political page (1995-96) further brought his work to national attention as did his award for Best Cover Illustration from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in 1997. And on the musical front, his bizarre Insomniac alum cover for the popular neo-punk band Green Day was indicated as a favorite in a 1996 readers poll in Rolling Stone Magazine. The growing demand for Winston’s humorous and controversial collage illustrations has prompted the release of his second book, Artcrime, and the production of his first-ever series of collectible archival prints. The jumbo scale and fine quality of this new print series hugely expands the already powerful visual impact of Winston¹s work. Intricate collages, formerly seen only in miniature on CD covers or in newsprint, take on a whole new life when printed on archival water color paper and blown up to 3′ x 4′. We have arrived at the threshold of the twenty first century. It’s time to call off the art police. The work of mischievous art-criminal Winston Smith is finally being brought to full color justice.