ongoing – Sept. 5
Last call! I, evidently, was an early practitioner of record album art. I realized this when I was at the opening party for the ICA's exhibition, "The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl." In college, when I was assistant managing a small record store, our small staff was particularly annoyed by Boz Scaggs disco album, "Silk Degrees." It was very popular, so we grudgingly sold it, but we also got a lot back as returns. Seems Columbia had a manufacturing defect in many of these which made tracking impossible. So, we took 'em back and could get credit for them through our distributor. But some of them, well, we couldn't help it: We took 'em to our ovens and baked them and them pulled the soft vinyl, taffy-like, into odd configurations. We'd then hang them as mobiles in the store, making some kind of artistic statement, I suppose.
At the ICA, curator Trevor Schoonmaker talked about 105 work/40 artist exhibit he assembled. "It's not about nostalgia, but it's there," he said. He called records – the vinyl, the album cover art, the experience of touch – "a time capsule of history, a point of departure." That's because, as we all know, its glory days are well behind it. Albums and the cover art were more or less vanquished by CDs, which were later just about snuffed out by download culture. (Yes, there's a resurgence and record sales are a growth category for young fans who never experienced the joys and older fans who pine for the good old days. But an uptick in sales of a very small slice of the pie, still keeps the record deep in the ghetto.)
What this exhibit does in multiple ways is celebrating records – even if some of the works are about destroying them – there's a chest-high, triangular assemblage of pieces of thick old Sun records with Jerry Lee Lewis' "Golden Nuggest" at the top. Christian Marclay's "Recycled Records" as recombined slices of various 12 inches and fused them together. (A mashup without music?) William Cordova as a 12-foot high stack of vinyl, 3000 records, as a tower with shards glued to the floor.