Spin: Turning Records Into Art
April 21 – August 5, 2018
The institution's press release follows:
Spin: Turning Records Into Art is a show of artist made records and record covers, alongside recent projects by contemporary artists who make use of the record in their sculptures and installations, including Rutherford Chang, Ajit Chauhan, Jamal Cyrus, David Ellis, Terrence Hammonds, Jennie C. Jones and Cynthia Norton. A substantial portion of the show features records from the collection of Michael Lowe, a Cincinnati based art collector with over 2000 records that is international in scope and reflects the myriad historical relationships between the artist and the record, a range that extends from conceptual works by artists like Joseph Beuys, Lawrence Weiner, and Christian Marclay to albums with iconic images by Jean Michel-Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger and Yoko Ono. Artists from Kentucky are included, featuring album covers by Lexington based artist Robert Beatty, and Louisville artists Kathleen Lolley, Joanne Oldham, Letitia Quesenberry, Jason Noble, Jeff Mueller, and Michael O’Bannon.
Initially designed to function as a protective sleeve, record covers have evolved into a highly sophisticated form of artistic expression. Notwithstanding the value of music videos and the proliferation of merchandise such as t-shirts and posters, records have become less disposable and more established as cultural artifacts and art objects in our current post-media age of music consumption. Musicians and artists alike have long believed that the physical products associated with music listening, from the album cover, the record sleeve and liner notes to inserts and the color of the vinyl, all contribute to a deeper listening experience.
Over the last century the record has become an effective tool for artists seeking new creative possibilities. Artists of the avant-garde in the early 1900’s, most notably the Dadaists and the Italian Futurists, used the record to document their radical ideas, and to disseminate their political and social experiments in sound, language, and music. Spin explores the current intersection of records and visual art, demonstrating the album’s remarkable position as art object and cultural artifact in contemporary artistic practice.
Records produced before the 1940’s commonly came in the form of 10 and 12-inch brittle discs made of shellac resin and played at a speed of 78 revolutions per minute (rpm), otherwise known as “seventy-eights.” Often distributed in card covers, sometimes with a circular cutout that allowed the information label to be seen, they were just as often sold in brown paper bags without any accompanying visuals or materials. In 1940 Alex Steinweiss was working as the art director for Columbia Records designing posters, books and booklets when a creative spark led him to design the first illustrated record cover. By 1948 Columbia had introduced the now standard microgroove 33 1⁄3 rpm Long Playing or LP record format with the new emblazoned album covers firmly positioned as an enduring and integral component to the longevity and collectability of recorded music.