VIPs LP Jacket Covers and Paparazzi Photos Showcase “Celebrity”
by Margie Romero
Zodiac Suite, Norrie Paramor. Courtesy of Exit Art.
Long before he
became one himself, Andy Warhol was fascinated with celebrity. Two shows on
view this month at the artist's North Shore museum investigate celebrity
and fame from opposing perspectives.
In The LP Show, more than 2,000 album
covers - from the 1940s through the end of the century - detail how
musicians and record companies used graphic representation to create
identity - and sell the product.
But a look at the
flip side of fame is captured in Off
Guard: The Photographs of Ron Galella. This debut exhibit features
approximately 300 images taken by Galella, the seminal American paparazzo
notorious for his pursuit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In his 30-year
career Galella has aimed (his camera) to unwrap carefully constructed
identities and reveal the person behind the persona.
Each of these
displays continues the post-war artistic revolution begun by Andy Warhol,
the audacious progenitor of Pop Art. With his own origins in commercial illustration,
Warhol recognized the power of mass-production. He knew these journalistic
and much-distributed depictions could be emotionally charged and immediate,
imbued with visual excitement and technical excellence, capable of
sophisticated humor and dark exploration.
Both The LP Show and The Photographs of Ron Galella, whose images have been reproduced
countless times, challenge the idea that art is precious, esoteric, and
Like the work of
Warhol, each of these shows documents the foundations of the current global
mediaplex and lifts the hood on the machinery of star-making. There is a
democracy of desire in the voracious public appetite for these art forms.
Long after Andy Warhol, the fascination with celebrity continues.
Creating Identity: The LP Show
June 23 - August 18
Music fans growing
up in this era of digital file-sharing technology don't know what they
missed: the kick of dreamy Saturday afternoons spent browsing through bins
at the local record store, picking a band because it looked cool on a 12-
by 12-inch album cover, flipping over the bright jacket to read the
substantial liner notes on the back. The
LP Show gives those generations raised on cassettes, 8-tracks, compact
discs, and MP3 a taste of what is was like to live in the age when people
tried not to scratch their vinyl.
The LP Show debuted last summer at the New York gallery Exit Art, curated by
journalist Carlo McCormick. A senior editor at Paper magazine, as well a music and art writer for magazines
such as Art Forum and Spin, McCormick, 40, says he,
"Came of age when record jackets, in terms of ambition, were at their
most grand and pompous."
recognizes their power, and considers album covers "landmarks in the culture." To
find the best material for this show, he visited about 60 people he
describes as obsessive record collectors and looked at millions of images.
His intention, he explains, was not to come up with a rock 'n roll hall of
fame, but rather to produce a history of experimental graphics.
that his choices were about the visual art and not the sound. He says,
however, "There are times when the music and the cover are intimately bound
together." One example is an album whose jacket features a picture of Ike
and Tina Turner in white-face. "The music was tongue-in-cheek and full
of irony," McCormick says. "Quite often what the band was trying
to say on the inside is reflected on the outside." Other times,
however, the album illustration was produced by an anonymous record company
artist whose only goal was to push the product by creating an image.
The Ike and Tina
Turner record is in a section headed "Race." Other themes include
War, Death, Religion, Sex, and Drugs. Additional groupings are based on
motifs, such as all smiling faces, or of people photographed from behind.
There are sections on Liquor, Inebriation, and Cocktail Culture, whose
images McCormick describes as "teasing forms of visual
Space Age Bachelor
Pad Music has its own area, full of graphics of rocket ships and women
dancing on the moon. Early Psychedelia is represented and so is Prog Rock.
The jazz label Blue Note, whose jacket illustrations featured odd angles
and great color-saturated photographs, has its own cluster. Sometimes the
curator threw in a record cover just because he liked its type font.
"I didn't try
to be willfully obscure," McCormick says. He did program a special
section by famous artists, including a jacket Andy Warhol did in the 1950s
for jazz musician Kenny Burrell, and another Warhol created for a recording
of Tennessee Williams reading The
Glass Menagerie. Christian Marclay, who is part of the current Whitney
Biennial, created a kitschy installation out of Herb Alpert's 1965 disc
"Whipped Cream & Other Delights."
With the museum
wallpapered with more 2,000 album covers, there's not much room for wall
texts. "Things become self-evident but it's not really explicit,"
McCormick says. "You don't have to grab all of it," he warns. "It's
a bit overwhelming."
Subverting Identity: Off Guard: The
Photographs of Ron Galella
June 23 - September 1
The shoe has been on
the other foot lately for Ron Galella, the photographer whose gonzo style
went a long way toward cementing the idea of paparazzi in the popular
imagination. For more than 30 years Galella's candid pictures of famous
people have appeared in newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times to The
National Enquirer. In the past few months, however, Galella himself has
been showing up in the news.
Paparazzo originally meant "buzzing
insect" in Italian. After director Federico Fellini named his
celebrity-chasing photographer "Signor Paparazzo" in his classic
1960 film La Dolce Vita, the name was used for all pesky free-lance
photographers who chased celebrities to take candid photos.
The tables got
turned with the recent publication of Greybull Press' The Photographs of Ron Galella, featuring an introduction
written by Tom Ford, creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and
a launch party held at Gucci's chic Rodeo Drive store.
Visitors to the Andy
Warhol Museum get up close and personal with these images in Off Guard: The Photographs of Ron
Galella, the first retrospective of the 71-year-old photographer's
has recently been rediscovered as someone whose work is worth looking
at," says The Warhol's Margery King, who curated the exhibit. King is
one of those who thinks Galella's milieu was worth looking at, so she
joined him in Los Angeles during Oscar week for a round of book parties and
"It was great.
Photographers were yelling out Ron! Ron!," King says. Vanity Fair's April issue devoted a
glitzy 10-page spread to The
Photographs of Ron Galella and his Hollywood appearances were covered
in the The New York Times Sunday
Style pages and other trendy media outlets. Despite this attention, King
says Galella was up to his old tricks during his stay in Tinsel Town,
running backwards down the red carpet in front of Gwyneth Paltrow to snap
her picture as she exited a Women's Wear Daily event.
however, has been capturing the moment when the person is not posing.
"His photos tell a story that's a central part of our history,"
King says. "There's the official history, then there's what people see
everyday." Being there to document famous people in unguarded moments
made Galella himself famous, or perhaps infamous, especially in regards to
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who in 1975 obtained a court order requiring
the photographer to stay at least 25 feet from her and 30 feet from her
children. In 1982, after violating the order, Galella agreed not to take
any more pictures of the former first lady, according to The Washington Post. Galella was
sited for repeated, shameless, and often unnerving intrusiveness.
It's through his
photographs, however, that we've embraced the Kennedy clan. "Much of
what we came to love about Jackie we discovered through
images," Tom Ford astutely says. Those haunting pictures will be on
display in The Warhol show, along with a constellation of other celebrity
photos, including Madonna, Sean Penn, Robert Redford, Halston, Donald and
Ivana Trump, Elizabeth Taylor, Warren Beatty, and many other socialites and
captains of industry from the late 1960s on.
In today's media
orbit, publicists try to control every aspect of their client's public
profiles. But rather than show up for canned photo pportunities, Galella
has made his own opportunities. The iconic results of his risks have become
an integral part of our visual culture.