Experimental and underground artistry is the norm at Desert Island. Look through the Williamsburg store’s plywood shelves and you’ll find glossy paperbacks as well as photocopied-and-stapled booklets with a D.I.Y. aesthetic. Surrounded by ice-blue stalactite sculptures and tapestries, regulars, travelers, and fellow artists immerse themselves in visual publications, seeking escape, inspiration, or both.
Desert Island embodies an “abstract idea of punk rock,” owner Gabe Fowler said, by operating on a no-restrictions consignment basis. (Artists set their price and split the revenue with the shop, 60-40.) “Mystery mail” — packages of printed eye candy sent to the shop with or without prior notice — arrives almost daily from far-flung cities like Barcelona or Saskatoon; other works come from customers and neighborhood regulars.
Beyond the meritocratic inventory system, Desert Island proselytizes offbeat creativity through its annual fall festival, Comic Arts Brooklyn, together with the Pratt Institute. It also publishes an all-illustration newspaper, which comes out a few times a year called “Smoke Signal,” now in its 29th issue. Copies of the publication, whose pages have carried works by Mad magazine legends alongside up-and-comers like Abby Jame, are free to customers.
Matthew Sedacca for The New York Times, June 7, 2018
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