From Jean Dubuffet to Andy Warhol, visual artists have long been lured by the magic of music. A recent exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco examined the ways in which artists have been drawn to records and their covers as mediums for original works of art.
Titled Art & Vinyl, the exhibition brought together over one hundred rare and most striking examples. Spanning seven decades of incredibly varied styles and conceptual strategies, the curator Antoine de Beaupré, a hardcore music lover, author of Total Records, and founder of Librairie 213, has brought together works from artists including Josef Albers, Tauba Auerbach, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joseph Beuys, Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Yves Klein, Barbara Kruger, Sol LeWitt, Chris Ofili, Ed Ruscha, and Cindy Sherman.
From Pablo Picasso’ depiction of a white dove printed onto the surface of Paul Robeson’s Songs of Peace from 1949 to Richard Hamilton’s indelible work for The Beatles’ White Album, the exhibition traced an idiosyncratic history of art from the mid-20th century to the present.
In case you have missed the show, we bring you ten most striking pieces of record covers made by celebrated artists.
Editors’ Tip: Art & Vinyl Hardcover by Jeffrey Fraenkel and Antoine De Beaupré
Art & Vinyl is an exhilarating new look into the history of the vinyl record as a medium for modern and contemporary visual art. This beautifully designed and printed publication is the first book to focus in-depth on works of art created specifically for an album, composer or musician.
With reproductions of more than 200 LPs from the mid-20th century to the present, Art & Vinyl traces the trajectory of how the record album has been considered by artists as material for a work of art. The book begins with Pablo Picasso’s 1949 depiction of the dove of peace, printed directly on an audio disc and includes works by artists as disparate and wide-ranging as Ed Ruscha, Marlene Dumas, Cy Twombly, Yoko Ono, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, Sophie Calle and Andy Warhol.
Featured image: The Art & Vinyl publication. All images courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.
In 1963, the Washington Gallery of Modern Art put on The Popular Image Exhibition featuring artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, John Wesley, Tom Wesselmann, Robert Watts, James Rosenquist, Vern Blosom, George Becht, Andy Warhol and Jim Dine.
The Swedish engineer Billy Klüver recorded and edited interviews with all artists, which were subsequently released on an LP record accompanied by the exhibition catalog. Initially, the cover image on the catalog and the outer envelope of the LP was designed by Jim Dine. It is yet unclear when did Andy Warhol produce a new Giant Size cover.
Featured image: Jim Dine & Andy Warhol - Catalogue and Record of Interviews for The Popular Image exhibition at The Washington Gallery of Modern Art, 1963 © 2018 Andy Warhol Foundation / ARS, NY, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Ed Ruscha and the composer Mason Williams were friends ever since the early days. The pair has worked together quite a bit over the years, engaging in dialogues, collaborations, and elective affinities. This little-known creative relationship spanned both the gallery system and the wider entertainment business.
One of the notable examples is the cover Ruscha produced for Mason’s 1969 album.
Featured image: Ed Ruscha - Music by Mason Williams, 1969 © Ed Ruscha, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
One of the most well-known veteran artists in the Catalan language, Raimon is one of the most important exponents of the musical style of Nova Cançó.
Raimon and Joan Miró were close friends that first collaborated on the 1966 album Cançons de la roda del temps. In 1979, Miró designed a cover for the album Quan la aigua queixa, including the name of Raimon in large handwritten letters. As a result of this relationship, Raimon composed the song A Joan Miró, which creatively certified his admiration towards the painter.
Featured image: Joan Miró - Quan L’aigua Es Queixa, 1979 © 2018 Successió Miró : Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York : Adagp, Paris, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
A doyen of music and design, Malcolm McLaren was a former manager of The Sex Pistols and a man who claimed to have invented punk. Known as an English impresario, visual artist, performer, musician, clothes designer and boutique owner, he combined these activities in an inventive and provocative way.
Collaborating with The World's Famous Supreme Team, he has released the album Would Ya Like More Scratchin in 1983. The album artwork was designed by legendary New York City writer Dondi White and Nick Egan, with the illustration by Keith Haring.
Featured image: Keith Haring - Would Ya Like More Scratchin by Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team Show, 1983 © Keith Haring, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
An artist exploring the play between realism and abstraction, Gerhard Richter maintained a lifelong fascination for the power of images and painting's uneasy relationship with photography.
In 1984, Richter overpainted 100 long-playing records of Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations for the Museumsverein Mönchengladbach, leaving Bach’s composition seeable but forever unplayable. The music has always had an important influence on the artist’s work, and he explained his preoccupation with this particular record in his notes:
Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations. I have been listening to hardly anything else for almost a year. What is starting to bother me, is the perfection. The totally absurd, boring, malicious perfection. No wonder that he died early. I should listen to the radio.
Featured image: Gerhard Richter - Goldberg Variations, 1984 © Gerhard Richter, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Regarded as one of the most prominent composers associated with the minimalist school, Philip Glass has been one of the dominant, boundary-crossing influences of the past half-century. His style is quite recognizable, owing to its seeming simplicity of repeated sounds, comprised of evolving patterns of rhythms, which are often quite complex, and rhythmic themes.
A personal friend of Sol LeWitt, Glass has collaborated with the Minimalist artist on many occasions. One of the notable one is the record cover for Music in Twelve Parts, featuring LeWitt’s artwork and Glass’s writing.
Featured image: Sol LeWitt - Music in Twelve Parts by Philip Glass, 1988 © 2018 Sol LeWitt, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
An iconic Italian art dealer, curator and actor, Lucio Amelio spent decades contributing to making Naples an international art center, encouraging the dialogue between European and America contemporary arts.
In 1990, he recorded his only album titled Ma L’amore No, dedicated to the friendship with Joseph Beuys who has died several years before. The cover was created by Cy Twombly in his distinct delicate style.
Featured image: Cy Twombly - Ma l’amore No by Lucio Amelio, 1990 © 2018 Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Best known for laying aggressively directive slogans over black-and-white photographs that she finds in magazines, Barbara Kruger developed a visual language that proclaims social, cultural, and political critique. Interested in critical theory and feminism, she explores the ways ideological messages infiltrate our daily lives by means of the mass media.
A radical left-wing activist music group, Consolidated searched for a political album cover. Using her distinct style of juxtaposing black and white photograph and red-boxed letters, she illustrated the hidden power of corporate control, a topic dear to both artist and band.
Featured image: Barbara Kruger - Business of Punishment by Consolidated, 1994 © Barbara Kruger, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Over the course of her 70-year-long career, Yayoi Kusama has developed a practice that shares affiliations with many contemporary movements, but resist any singular classification.
In 2013, Kusama created artwork for the eighth studio album by the Japanese DJ Towa Tei. Besides creating a cover that features her recognizable dots, she has also participated in the last track Love Forever, saying a little poem.
Featured image: Yayoi Kusama - Lucky by Towa Tei, 2013 © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
One of the most significant visual artists working today, Wolfgang Tillmans has released his first record in 2016, manifesting a lifelong passion for music. Titled Make It Up As You Go, the album features three songs the artist produced in 1986 and two songs produced in 2015/2016.
Naturally, Tillmans has designed the cover for the album himself.
Featured image: Wolfgang Tillmans - 2016:1986 EP, 2016 © 2018 Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
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