In some ways, the majority of celebrities’ brand equity lies in their facial features. In an age of “being famous for being famous,” it’s not uncommon for stars to insure their lips, voices, and cheek bones for millions of dollars. Studies have even shown that celebrity faces trigger happy emotions in our brains.
These celebrity portraits by Craig Redman, of the graphic design duo Craig & Karl, prove just how ubiquitous some celebrity visages really are. The series, Guise and Protagonist, was designed for a joint exhibition in Ferrara and Milan. The subjects range from film icons like Michelangelo Antonioni and Woody Allen to sports stars like Lebron James. The Pope, Keith Haring, and Takashi Murakami stare omnipotently from under heavy black brows. Even the celebrity portraitist of the Tumblr age, Terry Richardson, makes an appearance. Each face is pared down to its most essential parts, patterned with blown-up geometric patterns. But it’s still obvious who’s who, thanks to our fame-sensitive 21st-century brains. The curve of a cheekbone or a particularly baggy under-eye circle gives the game away.
“The portraits break down the subject’s face, borrowing from Cubism,” explains Craig Redman, the New York-based half of Craig & Karl (Karl is in London). “But whereas the Cubists broke objects down and rearranged objects in totally different ways, we pull apart and recompose faces in their traditional forms, focusing on individual components.”
Craig & Karl have decided to sell the prints in small quantities, which will delight anyone who’s ever tried to find a high-quality print of Kanye West’s face. It’s nearly as difficult as finding a simple Persian rug with cherub imagery.