Enter the Studio of Winston Smith, Artist Who Worked With Dead Kennedys, Green Day

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Winston Smith
Let Them Eat Jellybeans , 1981
Winston Smith is among those responsible for giving Bay Area punk rock a visual representation -- and when we say "Winston Smith," we're not talking about the infamous 1984 literary character, but rather the notable Bay Area artist whose work includes politically driven album covers and equally radical collages. He created artwork for music label Alternative Tentacles as well as album covers for the Dead Kennedys and Green Day, among others. A favorite and oft-used vehicle for Smith is the postcard and the poster, each ideal for his incongruous, contradictory, and sometimes shocking juxtapositions.

Some of us here know Smith from circa 1988, from a long-gone SoMa copy store whose owners were affiliated with Smith, Jello Biafra, performance art icon Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories, and members of the Church of the Subgenius. On Sunday, Smith opens the doors of his studio -- which he calls Grant's Tomb. His is the stuff of San Francisco underground legend. Those of you who weren't here (or born yet) back then could learn a lot -- and get some great art -- by visiting.

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Some of Smith's works are dark and unsettling while others are bright and fluorescent, with clip art taken from early advertisements. Much of it involves commentary on politics and consumer culture. Take Smith's cover art for the Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jelly Beans. Released in 1981, it features some of punk's earliest crusaders. The artwork depicts a black-and-white smiling Ronald Reagan with his fist thrust in the air. The contrast between Reagan and the bright colors of the American flag is more than a humorous observation on the late president's love for candy, but a straight jab at the kind of leadership that was in control at the time -- a man whose administration illegally funded right-wing death squads in Central America while putting on a sweet face to the American public.

The Winston Smith open studio starts at 4 p.m. at 50-A Bannam Place (at Union) in North Beach. Admission is free.

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