This won’t be some stuffy, highbrow art event. No siree! Jeff Grady’s first exhibit will be a true reflection of the man himself – smart, creative, just a little bit quirky, and above all, fun.
Pixel Perfect is a one night exhibition of original art to be held at San Francisco’s 111 Minna Gallery on Friday, April 25. The show draws upon Grady’s entrepreneurial business background as well as his passion for music and video games to present a collection that is a little bit history, and a lot more rock n’ roll.
The fifteen or sixteen pieces that comprise the collection have all been painstakingly crafted from discarded, non-functional iPods that are mounted on glass, many in iconic mosaic patterns. Thousands of iPods were collected over a period of several years. The Pixel Perfect exhibit was a full year in the making, inspired by Grady’s admiration for the often eccentric works and collections of artist Dale Chihuly. Some of Jeff’s designs use hundreds of iPods to fashion representations of digital icons, or of characters from vintage video arcade games, including the classic Mario Bros. and the iconic ghost from Pac-Man. Do you remember that ghost, the one that stalked your game and gobbled your player?
Exhibit curator Kelly Coty remembers. She remembers spending hours in the old neighborhood store where a ten dollar bill was traded for a roll of quarters, and play wouldn’t end until that roll was gone. There’d be a queue waiting behind her; the next player would simply put his quarters on the game console and say, “I’m next.”
Really, explains Kelly, this exhibit is a small piece of our generational history. Just as each square of a handmade quilt carries a memory, so do the tiled iPods in Grady’s artwork. Many of those audio players were engraved at purchase. Some are etched with “Happy Birthday” or “I love you.” Some rode in the car every day to work and back, playing the popular music of the day. Others spent hours at the treadmill or pounding the pavement, making those workouts easier to complete. Most were loaded with music that had meaning and importance to the owner. Memories, there are memories embedded in each of Grady’s designs.
For the artist, the iPod carries both his past and present. Grady was one of the first to purchase the original iPod following its 2001 commercial release. The audio player came without a case, and so Jeff made his own. He soon discovered that others wanted a carrying case and much more, accessories that the entrepreneur was more than happy to supply through his new company, Digital Lifestyle Outfitters. Sales of cases, docking stations, boom boxes and other peripherals escalated at a rapid rate; in 2006 DLO realized sales of approximately $100 million. When the company was acquired by Philips Electronics in 2007, Grady earned the financial freedom that would allow him to focus on other interests, including his passion for the music stored on his iPod.
At about that same time, soul singer Taylor Hicks found that his circumstances had also changed for the better. The recent American Idol winner and DLO founder were introduced by mutual friends in New York; the two found common ground as each man slowly adjusted to the challenges and rewards of unexpected fame and good fortune. For his part, Grady decided to leave some of that fortune in the City. His newly purchased New York penthouse was decorated and furnished in a stunning rock and roll motif by Nashville interior designer Kelly Coty.
At home in Nashville, Coty occasionally worked with local area realtors to furnish houses that would then be offered for rent or sale. One of the homes was leased to musician Taylor Hicks, temporarily in town to work with Music City songwriters. Anxious to have his new home ready for a weekend visit from friends, Taylor enlisted Kelly’s help. No problem, said the designer, and she arranged for his records and extensive memorabilia to be hung on the walls, even delivering a missing shower curtain to his front door. “Thank you,” said the Idol winner as he shared with the surprised designer, “My friends the Gradys will be here this weekend!”
Taylor Hicks will rock some soul at the April 25 Pixel Perfect art exhibit, accepting an invitation extended by new friend and curator Coty, and promptly seconded by Grady. Local area musician Peter Chung will also perform; Chung’s band includes techies who compute by day and rock by night. Once each year the band rocks hard in support of Music in Schools Today (MUST), a non-profit organization that funds music/arts programs in San Francisco area schools.
Jeff Grady is also firmly committed to music education in the schools. Says Jeff, “When I was young, I was fortunate to have attended public schools that had very strong music curriculums. Music transcends the physical world and enables children to collaborate in ways that are blind to their differences and unifies them on a higher plane. Music in Schools Today plays an invaluable role in facilitating, supporting and establishing music programs in schools, and this is something that can change lives.” At Pixel Perfect, one of Grady’s artworks will be auctioned with the proceeds to support MUST. That piece is a beautiful pink heart with a single red iPod at its center.
Admission to the Pixel Perfect exhibit is free of charge, and limited to adults ages 21 and over. Register for the April 25 event at the link. It promises to be a very special night: iPods on glass, musical memories to be shared and made. If you are passionate about music, design, 8-bit technology or video games, you’ve surely come to the right place, baby.