With the economic throes the country was about to face, 2008 wasn’t the most auspicious time to start a new business. But in calling the store “FICE for Life” and also FICE Gallery, Bullough was focused on making the high-ceiling open space of the building into an ideal venue for showing art as well as running a retail establishment.
Running a gallery has its own difficulties, however. “Originally with FICE, I had planned to bring in national artists a couple times a year,” Bullough explains. “But as we got going, I realized this wasn’t financially feasible. In the long run, I think it’s been a great thing, as we now get to feature and support more local art.”
FICE has hosted several of the most intriguing local art shows of recent months, including the group show Spacecraft Saints and the pop art-influenced graphic design work of Dan Christofferson; looking ahead, Bullough is planning the store’s three-year anniversary in April, and “working on a huge group show for the Day of the Dead.” But bringing Ricky Powell—a photographer who has had a hand in documenting hip-hop music since its early days, and pop culture icons in general—was really a coup for FICE, and a great showpiece for the community, especially during the Sundance Film Festival.
Born and raised in New York City, the 49-year-old Powell got into photography in the 1980s when he was given a camera by an ex-girlfriend. He started shooting photos of the Beastie Boys, and eventually was brought along on tour with them, even name-checked in the song “Car Thief” on their Paul’s Boutique album: “Homeboy throw in the towel/ Your girl got dicked by Ricky Powell.” He became known as “the fourth Beastie Boy,” and in the early ’90s he started his public access cable TV show Rappin’ With the Rickster. Powell’s work has been featured in The New York Times, the New York Post, Frank151, the Daily News, Village Voice, Time, Newsweek, VIBE, The Source and Rolling Stone. He has also published four books collecting his photographs and has exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris.
He did some paparazzi-style shots for the Lynn Goldsmith agency in the late ’80s, but that’s not what he really wanted to do. “My forte is street photography,” Powell explains, and he’s just as happy capturing noncelebrities as he is the famous. His recent work has tended toward scenes that document urban life with humor and insight. The FICE show, however, made up mostly of early work, features an array of celebs from Sofia Coppola to Laurence Fishburne to the Wu-Tang Clan.
Powell says his work is as much about the environment as the subjects; he calls an impromptu shot of Run-DMC in front of an ice-cream truck in Hollis, Queens, “Nubian Guido.” “Each situation is unique,” he explains. “I like the interaction.” Shooting Andy Warhol with artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, he notes that the interaction was typically low-key with Warhol, but you can see the images capture something of the essence of these key figures’ personality, as well as the New York City street vibe.
Bullough explains why he wanted to show Powell’s work at FICE: “I think a lot of ideas and original inspirations for street wear come from New York, so I felt like Ricky was a great person to pay respect to, and his photo style is usually from a New York street prospective.” Powell’s work and career exemplify the way hip-hop fashion and music are inextricably linked. “I felt like we were giving a lot of respect to Ricky and the foundations of hip-hop, but also to the NYC and the foundations of street wear.”
Bullough had the idea for the Powell show a year ago. “I ended up getting a job in [New York] last summer, and I made it my main goal to track him down and put the show together,” Bullough recalls. “Within a couple days of being out there, I told my friend and photo editor for Frank151 magazine, Craig Wetherby, about my plans. Later that night, he handed me his phone: ‘Yo … Ricky’s on the line.’ Ricky seemed receptive from the beginning. I went to WESC (one of our brands) and asked for some help, which they graciously provided.” The show was also the release party for Frank151’s latest issue.
The show’s opening, Jan. 21, wasn’t lacking excitement, with Powell on hand signing books and Salt Lake City’s finest (men in blue) checking it out, although they left without incident—presumably entertained and enlightened.
160 E. 200 South
Through Feb. 18