Gray to Dayglo: Black & White Roots of the Daisy Age

November 11, 2021, Bonhams London, New Bond Street sells at auction Six Original Studies for the De La Soul '3 Feet High and Rising' Debut Album Artwork at 32,250 British pound sterling. The auction house describes the lot's centerpiece as a "black and white photographic print with Posca paint pen art work on acetate overlay bearing the band and album name with floral design motifs, adhered with small pieces of tape to each side, stamped Grey Organisation along lower right margin." May 21, 1985, the Gray Organisation (GO) artists collective executes an "art terrorist attack" on London's Cork Street galleries, splattering their front windows with grey paint. Some years later, GO founder Toby Mott has De La Soul over to the collective's Grand Street, Manhattan loft for the 3 Feet High and Rising cover shoot. Prior to this encounter, Mott and co. film the video for "Potholes in My Lawn" in Amityville. The Super 8 recording begins in anarchic black-and-white stop-motion not so far removed from the Organisation's founding aesthetic. "We parodied yuppie and Soviet corporate monoculture with our uniformed anonymity, shaved heads, white shirts, English suits, making and exhibiting art as product without individual authorship, something inspired from the rigorous orthodoxy of Crass." The video ends in color. The cover shoot follows a similar trajectory. "We laid the trio down on the floor of our loft with their heads almost touching and took a black and white photo from above. They seemed mystified. We added the dayglo background and, since the daisy-age concept suggested flowers, I drew some on with Posca paint pens, which were the new thing, very popular with graffiti artists." Thus, from the Situationist International origins of Crass (dé)collage, filtered through an acid house revival of psychedelic flower power, "The whole visual identity of the Daisy Age was born." Bonus trivia: Mott goes on to operate the Biz Markie puppet on the cover of Master Ace's "Me and the Biz" single and direct the video for Public Enemy's "Shut 'Em Down."

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