The Illustrated Oasis


Just when it seems like gentrification and IKEAfication have completely taken over Brooklyn, something stands out to remind you why you’re here: To be surrounded by art, music, words and ideas.

Desert Island is one of those places that shines in the consumer retail rough. Proprietor Gabriel Fowler opened the Williamsburg store in February of this year, with nothing more than a bank loan, a small community of artist friends, and a desire to share some of his favorite comics, zines and books. Fowler grew up around indie record and comic shops in Florida, which “were the only exciting places to hang out in a cultural wasteland.”

cave.jpgPowered by his professed “obliviousness” of the weak bookselling market, Fowler built and decorated the store entirely by hand, with a few key installations from his friends: Marie Lorenz, who made a delicate and intricate paper chandelier, and Chris Patch, who made the store’s very first window display, an ice cave scene made out of cardboard and masking tape (a new installation by Williamsburg cartoonist Lauren Weinstein has just taken its place).

Independent comics and graphic novels make up the bulk of the store’s inventory. The biggies, like Adrian Tomine and R. Crumb, share space with cult favorites Julie Doucet and Michael Kupperman, as well as occasional mainstream hits, like Watchmen. Local New York comics are also featured, including self-published work like “Paping,” whose creator John Mejias is organizing the Brooklyn Heights Soapbox Derby on August 23.

lwpring.jpgThe store also stocks a solid collection of foreign artistry, from mainstream titles like “Persepolis” to handmade, silkscreened books imported from overseas; journals like Cabinet and Juxtapoz, handmade zines, art and music books. Screen prints from collectives in Finland, Paris, St. Louis and elsewhere line the walls and are all available for sale. Some of the prints, first created to advertise the store’s many readings, are produced by Mr. Fowler himself, and offer an affordable sample of the artists’ work. This one by Lauren Weinstein, for instance, is available for under $20.

Desert Island’s events have been extremely successful so far, drawing local artists, illustrators, and comics fans from all over. As attendees spill out of the small space onto Metropolitan Avenue, Fowler makes sure to supply plenty of cheap beer and music from the store’s record player. This Sunday is a celebration for Weinstein’s window display and new print, and on August 8th, a panel discussion will be held in honor of Rory Hayes, who died in 1983. His life’s work is collected in “Where the Demented Wented,” newly published by Fantagraphics.

Desert Island, 540 Metropolitan Avenue at Union in Williamsburg. Open from 12-9, Tuesday through Sunday. Check for more events and recent acquisitions.

Sent by Rachael. Interior photo by Sarah Glidden. Chris Patch display photo via Print courtesy Desert Island.

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