Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rock and roll never forgets

By Meredith Deliso

Three years ago, the Brooklyn Museum held a rock star of an exhibition in its Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, with over 200 photographs by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Starting October 30, another ambitious exhibition comes to the same hall, with as much of a rock star aesthetic.“Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present,” features more than 175 works, many rare and never-before-seen, by 105 photographers, in the first major museum exhibition on rock and roll to put those behind the lens in the foreground.

While their names might not be as marquee as Leibovitz’s, for guest curator Gail Buckland, this show provides the opportunity to give as much attention to the photographers, the “handmaidens of the revolution,” as she calls them, as the musicians tend to draw.

“I have many photographs that [people] recognize that you probably don’t know who took them,” says Buckland, a professor at Cooper Union who published a book of the same name as the exhibit this month through Knopf. “There are really interesting stories behind the shoots. But unless it’s Annie Leibovitz, people don’t know these names.”

Behind an effervescent photograph of Tina Turner, for instance, was Henry Diltz. The famous “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album cover? Don Hunstein. His iconic “Blonde on Blonde” album cover? Jerry Shackburg.

“I do feel it’s time that they’re acknowledged for their enormous contribution,” says Buckland of the photographers who shot rock. “The music alone couldn’t have generated the revolution, the fever that was known as rock and roll.”

Buckland began research on her book about four years, interviewing photographers and going through hundreds of their photographs in their personal archives. Right from the beginning, says the author, the Brooklyn Museum was keen on doing an exhibition tied in with the book.

“Museums get beat up when they try to do something that embraces a larger audience,” says Buckland, though she sees that as a positive thing. “The exhibition has the energy of the real objects and the tapes and the videos that a lot of the stories I could only tell in the book.”

The exhibit will feature a range of iconography, from concert photos and album covers to staged band portraits and fan shots. It will also feature videos and slideshows, and, on the audio tours, the photographers themselves will speak about their works, with an original composition by Chris Stein of Blondie to accompany it.

The day before the October 30 public opening, Brooklyn Museum members can attend an opening night reception, which will feature a performance by none other than Blondie. On November 7, more musicians will help in marking the exhibit, as that Saturday will feature a showcase of indie rock bands Grass Widow, Crystal Stilts, and the Beets. Visitors are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite rock star that day, and there will be a talk by Buckland.

Despite her colossal work on the subject her and enthusiasm about rock and roll, surprisingly, Buckland would not call herself a tremendous music fan.

“My great passion was and is photography,” says the curator. “Music was background. Front and center has always been my love of photography. When I was younger, just the way a musician would cradle their guitar, I would hold my camera.”

“Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present,” runs from October 30 to January 31 at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway), with an October 29 reception open to museum members featuring a performance by Blondie. The exhibit will be located in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor. For more information, call 718-501-6326.


Grass Widow October 22, 2009 at 1:54 PM  

grass widow is from san francisco!

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