Cali Thornhill Dewitt, The Artist Behind Kanye’s Pablo Merch, Is Opening A New Exhibition

29 Flags explores America’s culture of fear.

October 11, 2016

Cali Thornhill Dewitt has had a long strange trip to relative celebrity, starting with his days hanging around Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love in the early '90s. These days, he's known to many as the visual designer behind the near-ubiquitous, gothic-font merch that accompanied the album rollout and tour stops for Kanye West's Life of Pablo. In the art world, Dewitt is a cult favorite, known for his stark, immediate prints decked out with all-caps lettering. He's also the curatorial force behind L.A. record label Teenage Teardrops and a director of videos for Antwon and Omar Souleyman.

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This Thursday, the artist will open a new solo exhibition, 29 Flags at Copenhagen's Eighteen Gallery. The show, as its name hints at, features 29 American flags, each with all-caps letters ironed on, and some in Pablo's trademark gothic. The words emblazoned on each flag allude to an infamous moment in American history, and generally a violent one that inspired some widespread public fear-mongering. Think OJ, JFK, or The Manson Family.

Dewitt spoke to the meaning behind the show in a statement from the exhibition's press release:

“When I was a kid I was terrified by the news. Nuclear war was imminent. Satanists were on every block. When I was 12 The Nightstalker had LA checking the locks on all their doors and I started sleeping with a knife under my pillow. The far right was doing their best to control anyone with different ideas and lifestyles and hateful evangelists were scandalized for the human behaviors they demonized from the pulpit.

When Senator Budd Dwyers [sic] public suicide was televised, kids in the neighborhood would bring VHS copies of it to each other’s houses. While I was recalling events and choosing what these flags would be I quickly saw that I could have made the entire series out of current events. How many shootings have happened in the last 6 months alone? The horror continues.”

The exhibition runs until November 19, but for those of us not planning a trip to Denmark in the next month or so, we'll have to snag some merch at the closest Pablo tour stop. Or you can always just read this interview with the dude who wears Pablo merch literally every day.

Cali Thornhill Dewitt, The Artist Behind Kanye’s Pablo Merch, Is Opening A New Exhibition