Virtually There: Hanging out at Printed Matter's Book Fair

Barb & Star, remembering Daft Punk, the power of scent, Planningtolisten, a chapel of Rothko and more

As I've been thinking through what TFIB should feel like in it's new Substack world I've decided that I want it to function differently based on the day of the week. My thinking (for now) is that Mondays will be a thoughtful round-up of ideas which will skew more longform and opinion based. Wednesdays will feature a wallpaper(s) as well as a series of links and ideas to explore. While Fridays will focus on actionable things you can do on the weekend ahead, which you'll see for yourself down below.

In quar or after, the weekends are an important time to do things that enrich your life. This can manifest in a lot of ways (watching, reading, listening, seeing) and the eight items below will give you a taste of what I mean.

<3 Bobby


Virtual matters

Printed Matter’s annual book fair here in Los Angeles was always a spectacle. You could always expect extravagant booths, charming characters, over-priced items, and and a guarantee of running into at least four people you know. This year, the event has been transformed into the PMVABF, the Printed Matter Visual Art Book Fair, featuring over 400 exhibitors from 43 countries, with online programs, performances, games, and more.

You could easily spend your entire weekend browsing custom websites from each of these exhibitors as well as the incredible amount of programming that’s available, which is totally free to enjoy.


“Yellow teeth was just the regular color.”

I didn’t expect to love Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar as much as I did. The spoiler-free premise: two very reserved women who love their ordinary lives unexpectedly lose their jobs, but take it as sign to get out of their normal routines. So they take an “exotic” vacation to Vista Del Mar, a resort town in Florida, and end up getting caught in an evil villains plot to kill the entire town.

Kristen Wiig (one of the funniest people alive) and her co-star Annie Mumolo are eccentric and absurd beyond belief and an absolute joy to watch. Their off the cuff banter throughout the film is such a joy to sit back and experience. The ensemble is a delight as well, in-particular Reyn Doi who plays Yoyo, and starts the film in one of the most hysterical intros ever. Big props to Jamie Dornan for being shirtless a good chunk of the film 🥰 you’re doing the lords work. If you’re looking for something and dumb and wonderful I would highly recommend watching.


Soothing soul and spiritual jazz

For the past few weeks I’ve started a ritual of listening to Naomi Asa on NTS every weekend. For those unfamiliar, NTS is a digital radio station with 24/7 programming, with outposts in London, Manchester, and Los Angeles. Their DJs are an eclectic mix and the music they play is equally diverse. You’ll literally hear every genre of music from about every span of time. There’s quite literally something for everyone.

Naomi Asa, and her particular blend of soul/jazz/folk/ambient seems to really hit the spot on a Sunday morning. She has such a unique POV when it comes to music, things I’ve never heard before, which is why it’s so exciting.


One more time

With the break-up of Daft Punk this week it felt appropriate to revisit an iconic moment from their career. In 2007, as part of their Alive tour, they played Grant Park in Chicago to massive crowd at Lollapalooza. The set is a fantastic one, with so many of their hits mashed together in new and exciting ways. As someone who never had the opportunity to see them live, watching this on a TV is about the best it’s going to get.


Composing a symphony

“Perfume is about emotions.” So says François Demachy, Director of Development for the LVMH group’s cosmetics and perfumes division, who, since 2006, has been the mastermind (er, nose) behind some of their most popular fragrances.

My partner Kyle and I have roughly 20 to 30 different scents in our bathroom. We see them as extensions of ourselves and our moods, each day we augment our physical appearance with a scent that compliments (or contrasts with) what we have on. When you walk into a room with an amazing cologne or perfume on, you surprise people, and it’s a phenomenal feeling.

Nose, is a documentary which follows Demachy as he searches for ingredients for his perfumes. Love docs, love scents, this is absolutely made for me, I think you’d enjoy it, and you can watch the trailer here.


Planningtoenjoy

One of the mixes I’ve listened to most over the last couple months has to be Planningtorock’s Planningtoremix 2020 mega mix. They had one of the best singles of the entire year with the track they made for the Chanel show (Planningtochanel) and this mix does not disappoint. Track list includes remixes for Romy (from The xx), Austra, Robyn and more, but my favorite is what she did for Perfume Genius. The second track on the mix is their version of Jason off his upcoming IMMEDIATELY Remixes album. Their version of Jason is literally one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, I have it stuck in my head constantly, I think you’re gonna love it.


Reach out and touch faith

Perhaps you’re looking for something more spiritual to brighten your weekend? The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary with an interfaith ceremony and community celebration on Sunday, and it’s totally free to join. The chapel is famously known for containing 14 immense Rothko paintings as well as being a place that’s open to anyone looking for spiritual guidance and representing those of all faiths. They even have a Barnett Newman sculpture in the garden! If you’re curious to learn more about The Rothko Chapel I found this handy link which gives the history of the chapel, and which I found handy.


You can’t lead a horse to water

This is a gem I happened to stumble across thanks to Soundcloud’s brilliant algo. It’s a mix created by DJ Early Grey, a Melbourne based DJ who cobbled together an incredible mix of old classic gems. The best way I can describe it is to say it sounds like a Quentin Tarantino film, and I mean that in the best way possible. You’ve got old Japanese country tracks, psychedelic guitar tracks, 70’s soul jams, and that’s like only the first 20 minutes! I feel so lucky coming across this mix, really looking forward to digging into more of his work.

Listen to the whole thing here (with headphones!) you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday Wallpaper: Les Petits Chiens

Naked hangouts, rejecting the binary, a fun calculator and more

When I began planning the return of TFIB I knew I had to bring back wallpapers. Over the last five years I’ve thought of many different versions of what a new version of The Desktop Wallpaper Project would be. It was so important to the success of the old site yet I wanted to find a way to modernize it. So I’ve been working on a series of mobile wallpapers over the years and now it’s finally time to open that archive of work.

Our first wallpaper is titled Les Petits Chiens, an adorable drawing of a pack of dogs that I found on a vintage brochure a while back. I’m smiling to myself while I write this because I’ve had this as my phone’s wallpaper since December 11, 2019. Now, after all this time, I finally have an opportunity to share. Hope you enjoy and use it!

Download → 📱


Powerful Bodies

One of the bright spots during quarantine has been visiting galleries in Los Angeles. My partner Kyle had this great idea as a way for us to experience culture again and leave the confines of our apartment. I’ve missed museums and galleries and the experience of seeing art, good or bad, and these visits have been nourishing. You set an appointment time and then you have an entire gallery to yourself, it’s such a joy! That said, I do miss mingling with strangers in a cramped, sweaty gallery drinking lukewarm Tecates… there’s nothing that matches that feeling.

Last weekend we stopped by New Image Art to see the new Jeffrey Cheung show, Dream. This series of work continues his exploration of the human shape in all it’s many forms. Bright colored limbs intertwining into more and more complex configurations. I snapped some photos (below) of the exhibit because the colors were so beautiful and his brush stokes are so lively and expressive. It’s so wonderful getting to see all that nuance and detail in person, seeing how his pieces are formed and how these works come together. It’s sitting in front of a piece, the smell of the gallery, all of those senses mingling together that bring you to life as you’re standing there in person. If you have the opportunity I highly recommend you make an appointment at your local galleries and support them in any way you can.


The Divided Self

I was introduced to the work of Lorraine O’Grady this week, thanks to this piece in T Magazine. A conceptual artist who works in poetry, performance art, photography and videography, she will have a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum titled Both/And running from March 5–July 18, 2021. The exhibition will feature twelve major projects she’s produced over her four-decade career as well as the debut of a much-anticipated new installation. Hopefully things are looking better by this summer?

One snippet from the T Magazine interview I was quite fond of is how she described her process in making art, which is such a visceral and comical way of looking at it.

"In other words, I’m not playing in art as much as other artists would be playing — I’m out there to make the best possible work and as close to a masterpiece as I can. I think of myself as somebody who’s working on the skin of the culture and constantly making incisions and stuffing words into each incision, the way you’d season a turkey so that the flavor gets in, even if you don’t have much of the original material left."


Quite The Production

I am a big fan of Maurizo Cattelan, the creative brilliance behind Toilet Paper magazine, and his many other collaborations and endeavors. Yesterday, Vanity Fair released their annual Hollywood Issue and Mr. Cattelan, along with his frequent collaborator Pierpaolo Ferrari, were at the helm of all the photos and videos for this momentous but challenging issue, cover included.

From Costa Rica, the renowned conceptual artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari directed 10 photo shoots across four continents, using techniques that allowed us to minimize on-set personnel and maximize COVID-19 protocols. It was a feat born of necessity but suffused with artistic purpose—to demonstrate not just that the show must go on but that there’s joy in its continuance, even in the most surreal and challenging of times.

The resulting images are hysterical and over-the-top and so dumb, which is exactly what we need right now. Could these have been more ridiculous? Sure, but I think they did some great work considering the hurdles (and potentially big personalities) they had to overcome. Give me Maya Rudolph doing anything and I’m there.


  • Starting tomorrow night, Thursday Feb 29 at 9pm PST, the Maison Margiela x Reebox collaboration goes on sale. A combination of Reebok’s Classic Leather and Margiela’s split toe Tabi, this is such a cool melding of two iconic classics. I’m very tempted to snag a pair in white!

  • I’m such a nerd for Frances McDormand. She seems like the coolest, most down-to-earth person, and Nomadland, her new film with director Chloé Zhao, feels like it’s going to be a masterpiece. This interview with Kyle Buchanan will make you love her so much. I want to eat Fritos with Fran!

  • No one ever has said, “hey, you should download this super fun calculator app” but here we are, and I’m telling you exactly that. The bros at Andy, a couple of fellas who treat apps more like games, have released a calculator, weather, and timer app that go far beyond the expectation of what these can be. They’ve already change the way I use my phone after less than a week.

  • Secret writing was found scrawled into Edward Munch’s titular The Scream painting, and is it turns out, Edward might have been in quite a state similar to that of his painting. Quite fascinating, expect to see art history kids get this as an edgy tattoo in the near future.

  • SSENSE sat down with MoMA curator Thomas Lax, a champion of diversity and representation in a rigid, mostly cis white museum system, to speak about the progress he’s been able to bring about. It’s a joy to read and I felt this line really resonated with the where America is at culturally:

    "I do have enough of a belief in the possibilities of us coming together inside of, or under the auspices of, institutions as a place to invite strangers into or run away from it, but to nevertheless not spend our efforts trying to destroy it, because then we sometimes waste our energy or we destroy ourselves."

  • I am not a fan of snow, kind of never, and I fall into a very specific “stereotype of a Californian” even though so much of California get’s snow. But! Geoff McFetridge has done a collaboration with K2 on several sets of skis and I want them so bad, specifically the pictogram ones with “Don’t follow me – I don’t know my wayback” printed on the bottom. Also, if that’s Geoff’s Land Rover kinda car thing I’m gonna rob him, it’s a beaut’.

  • Speaking of art exhibits, homeboy KAWS also has an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum from February 26–September 5, 2021 titled WHAT PARTY and I’m praying that I can visit NY in that span of time to see it. I get that KAWS falls into the hype-beast-adult-boy-jawnz world but I’ve been a fan of this guy since like 1998 and I think it would be so rad to see a retrospective of his work.

  • I like this guys hot take that the best image of Mars was actually created in 1965, basically done as a paint-by number. I don’t disagree. This is a piece of art and I hope it’s in a museum somewhere.

The importance of taking space in creative fields

Wooden skyscrapers, powerful pictograms, the meaning of everything and more

Wow, it’s my first REAL post on here. I haven’t felt this excited to be sharing again in a while. Time away certainly helped me gain a new perspective. I can promise you that I’ll always keep this thing eclectic in it’s range of ideas and topics. Hopefully this feels like a flashback and a breath of fresh air.

If you have any items that you think I should cover, email me at thefoxisblack@gmail.com, and of course, feel free to like this or comment below.

<3 Bobby


The World Is Here for Our Taking

I thought it was fitting to start things off with one of the most impactful things I've seen this year. Since the beginning of Virgil Abloh’s reign as artistic director of Louis Vuitton men's wear he's reshaped the very nature of the luxury fashion industry. His Fall-Winter 2021 collection was a spectacle made possible by the extraordinary circumstances we're living through, a runway collection told through film. This isn't a first but it illustrates the power of moving images to sell an idea, or in this case, beautiful clothing.

We start in an alpine fairytale, an allusion to Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village,” while harps strum, and a stranger appears from the wild. The stranger, played by rapper/poet/polymath Saul Williams, begins this prelude, setting the narrative that change is coming… "the snow will melt, the ice will that, and make it up to me.

He steps through an archway and begins to tread around a structure made of deconstructed marble blocks, referencing architect Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. He speaks the names of creatives, fighters, the marginalized, those who've demanded more. This is a collection about diversity, about taking space for those who haven’t yet been given their due time, and it’s a powerful visual statement.

During all of this we're given a glimpse of an incredible array of clothes, what is in fact 70 complete looks and an astronomical number of total pieces created. We have suits resembling ribboned marble, structured coats recreating the iconic architecture of Paris and New York, genderless garments for anyone to wear. There are big blossoms, extreme coat tails, lots of Newport cigarette-inspired greens, and plane symbology everywhere which underlines our desire to get away from it all. The overall palette of this collection has to be one of the most remarkable I've ever seen, a calvacade of cool blues, electric greens, and deep purples balanced with caramel-y browns and a gamut of grays and metals.

The last third of the film is a feast of Mos Def lyrical greatness, keeping the pace and momentum of the runway looks, gluing us in anticipation. This frenetic feast is thanks to the brilliance of Wu Tsang, a filmmaker who is well-known for her art world features. All combined, it’s a visual and aural feast for the imagination. After watching this for the first time I was awestruck, crying little tears of creative joy, marveling at what an incredible work of art had been birthed. I felt like I had witnessed something truly transformative, an ode to minorities who are ready to shine, and that we have the power to truly change the world.

If you’re interested in reading more about the show I would highly recommend reading Sarah Mower’s take over on Vogue. She’s added a lot more context and snippets of interview from Abloh himself which I appreciated.


An Uphill Challenge

How we build our cities will be incredibly important as we continue to deal with the growing perils of climate change. We know that heavy usage of concrete and glass can cause heat sinks, creating cities that are hotter than surrounding areas and don’t have a built-in method to vent that heat off.

These were some of the things I thought of when I saw this new skyscraper design from Studio Marco Vermeulen, The Dutch Mountains. The pair of dynamic towers soar over the Eindhoven, intertwining in a beautiful gesture. What really caught my attention though was how much of the building was made of wood, specifically, cross-laminated timber that will be sourced from sustainably managed forests. I am by no means an expert but this seems to be a meaningful act, and if these same practices were repeated in other buildings, we’d see some positive movement.

These renderings are incredible to me, so much wood and so many plants everywhere, it’s a dream. Can you even think of a space that looks like this? Especially at scale? There’s something about this that reminds me of the bathhouse from Spirited Away, a sort of magical, multi-layered world with so much happening everywhere. I hope we see more of this in all forms of architecture!


Small but Mighty

I’m such a fan of emojis and emoticons for their ability to express so much with so little. I mean, let’s be real, what’s old is new again and we’ve resurrected hieroglyphics for our digital age. But it works. Now we’ve got a new take from the legendary designer Kenya Hara and his design studio in the form of a set of pictographs meant to help the tourism industry in Japan.

EXPERIENCE JAPAN PICTOGRAMS are a novel set of visual symbols developed for people of all cultures and ages to enhance their tourism experience in Japan. These uniquely simple and easy-to-understand pictograms are designed under the key concept of “second encounter with Japan” to invite visitors to explore and enjoy Japan a little deeper than before.

I really appreciate this project for numerous reasons. I love that the studio decided to try a unique way to garner attention to the Japanese tourist problem. I love that they’re giving these away for free, for whatever use you may have, which is a blessing to many designers. And of course, that fact that these were designed to be used for any medium? Brilliant. Download the whole set for yourself by clicking here.


What Does It All Mean?

I’m sure you’re in a similar place to me. We’re dealing with quarantine life every day, not sure what’s next for any of us, and honestly, what it all means. Alisha Liu, an animation student at CalArts, has been able to full encapsulate a lot of the feelings I’ve had over the last year with her short film 3:45 PM.

After watching this I’d describe it as our current existential meets the Eames’ Powers of Ten. Alisha has done an incredible job at capturing how this current moment (never ending quar) in such a beautiful way. I love the way she simplified the forms of the characters and the world, but everything has that soft but rough edge like you’d see in a watercolor painting. If you need a moment of self-realization, please watch this.


  • Sad cultural news to wake up to this morning. After 28 years Daft Punk has decided to split up. I’m still a huge fan of their music (listening to Homework as I write this) but this also reminded me of the time I saw the premiere of their film Electroma at the New Beverly. It was a midnight screening and no one knew what was going on and I swear to god literally 90% of the theater fell asleep.

  • Loving the Loewe Perfumes campaign shot by Tyler Mitchell. Tyler’s photos are always a joy to look at and the colors and tones he was able to capture match the essence of Loewe perfectly.

  • A24 has a few more virtual screenings left for Minari, which is showing until Feb 26.

  • You may have already seen these (Kyle and I were talking with his sister about them yesterday) the Nike Go FlyEase is a hands-free shoe. It’s so well-designed because of it’s amazing shapes and textures, and it’s perfect for those who are disabled or differently abled. Designing for accessibility should still be cool.

  • Completely mesmerized by Anton Pearson’s “infinite camouflage” which reminds me of how the skin of a cuttlefish moves. Great example of biomimicry.

  • I think about Seth Rogen’s growing talent as a ceramicist a lot. He’s very good at what he does but he also basically has infinite resources to explore his new craft. I’m not bitter about you’re bitter about it.

  • Ran Ortner was a professional motorcycle racer turned painter and now he paints the most amazing paintings of the ocean. The way he’s able to capture the depth of the light in the waves is pretty remarkable.

  • Christoph Niemann teaches us how to make a snowman in 2021. The carrot is such a clever stroke of genius.

The Fox Is... Back

Hi there, welcome to the new The Fox Is Black. It's been ages but I'm so very excited to see you. For those of you who are new here, I'm Bobby Aaron Solomon, the founder/editor/writer/designer/curator around here. Back in 2007 I started The Fox Is Black as a way to share my point of view about the things I loved, the things I discovered through the Internet that I didn't see in my day-to-day life in the suburbs of Northern California. After running the blog for nearly 12 years though, I became burned out, and honestly it felt more like a job than something to be passionate about.

Now it’s 2021, so what's changed? Ha. Well, I've certainly aged, slowly nearing 40 (even if some don't count last year's birthday). We've experienced a global pandemic, which has certainly given me plenty of time to analyze (over-analyze) how I would like to earn a living in the future. And culturally, we're starting to see a shift toward supporting creatives for their hard work, rather than feeling like they need to give it away for free in order to one day get paid.

Substack to me seems like an opportunity to rebuild TFIB from the ground up. I'd like to revisit my bag of tricks (wallpapers, mixtapes, contests) as well as trying some new things as well (more video, interviews, perhaps a proper podcast, we shall see). With support from a small but dedicated audience I think building a fulfilling, inspiring little universe is possible. And after spending nearly a year in quarantine we all need a little inspiration in our lives.

For the time being this Substack is a bit of an experiment. I'm looking at sharing things twice or three times a week currently, Monday and Wednesdays, perhaps Friday as well. It's been a while since I've ridden this bike so I'm going to spend time getting the hang of it once again. In order to do that I'll be focusing on two "mottos" I've tried to engrain into myself and those around me.

"Work smarter not harder."
"Less talking more doing."

Hope you enjoy the ride <3

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