Andy Warhol designed three milestone album covers in the 1960s and ’70s: “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” with the image of the banana that you could peel, and two Rolling Stones LPs, including “Sticky Fingers,” with the provocative zipper that you could unzip…. But who knew that Warhol, the pioneer of Pop Art, drew more than 50 album covers over the span of his career – and not just for rock, but for classical music, opera and jazz? Those works are the subject of a lavishly illustrated, fastidiously documented book, “Andy Warhol: The Record Covers, 1949- 1987,” published jointly by Prestel and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The author, Paul Marechal, is curator of the art collection at the Power Corporation of Canada, which consists mainly of French decorative art of the 18th and 19th centuries. ~ Fred Kaplan, New York Times @ The International Herald Tribune, April 25, 2009
The greatest gift I received during “My Year of Musical Thinking” was summer school in 1969 in New York City. I attended the Rhodes School a private school located next door to the Museum of Modern Art. I began seeing jazz and sounds transformed and recreated in wonderful shapes, colors that translated acoustic portraits of jazz life into Modern and Abstract visual experiences. That summer I was introduced to Pop Art by Warhol and Abstract Art by Picasso and Romare Bearden and Jackson Pollack to name a few. The mold had been cast and it calculated everything measure by measure into an imaginative and enchanted inner creative life that manifested in my writing and artist’s life. Wha more can any of us ask for…Peace Out! JBC
Warhol came to New York in 1949, fresh out of art school, the long-playing record had just hit the marketplace. Warhol called the big labels, offering to illustrate their covers.
He won an assignment right away, from Columbia Records, for an LP called “A Program of Mexican Music.” His drawings, of ancient drummers and dancers, were crude, but already they anticipated aspects of his later works. He copied the figures from 16th-century Aztec sketches that he found in a Museum of Modern Art catalog, a forerunner of his tendency to make art from existing images, like the Marilyn Monroe photos and Campbell’s Soup cans. And he used a technique known as “blotted line” drawing, a basic form of printmaking that foretold his fascination with silk-screens.
Those early covers “have pizazz and elegance and a sneaky linearity, like Cocteau with a movement disorder,” said Wayne Koestenbaum, the author of a Warhol biography.
Warhol‘s cover for the jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell’s self- titled debut album on the Blue Note label, in 1956, was a drawing based on a photograph, as were many of Warhol‘s later portraits.
It was stylized, exaggerating the curves of Mr. Burrell’s guitar, the vibrations of its strings and the strumming of his fingers.
“Already you see the sense of movement, the low-angle perspective that’s very much associated with film or photographs,” Mr. Marechal said. It’s a precedent, he added, for Warhol‘s move a decade later into photographing pop stars and making movies.
The next year, on another Blue Note album cover, the saxophonist Johnny Griffin’s “Congregation,” Warhol – again working from a photo – painted fragments of colored flowers on Griffin’s shirt, which not only imbued the drawing with a splashy rhythm but also foreshadowed the giant flowers that Warhol would paint, over and over, in the following decade.
Warhol used the album cover as a testing ground and template for the styles he was instrumental in the development and flourished in the Pop Culture Age to come after he crossed the boundaries of commercial illustrator to museum artist where he continued his work.
Warhol‘s album covers mirrored and incorporated other forms of art, reflecting and visualizing the broad spectrum Popular Culture of his times, i.e., from innocent chaos of the late 1940s and the muted cool tones of the ’50s to the overwhelming exuberance of the ’60s – the age reflecting the Beats and Hippies incorporating technological advancement of stereo, moon shots and color TV.
During the 1960’s and 70’s Andy Warhol designed three milestone album covers: “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” with the image of the banana that you could peel, and two Rolling Stones LPs, including “Sticky Fingers,” with the provocative zipper that you could unzip.
Paul Marechal author and curator of the art collection at the Power Corporation of Canada, which consists mainly of French decorative art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Those works are the subject of a lavishly illustrated, fastidiously documented book, “AndyWarhol: The Record Covers, 1949- 1987,” published jointly by Prestel and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
In 2006, Mr. Marechal met Stephane Aquin at an art exhibition in Marseille. Aquin, the curator of contemporary art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was impressed and organized a show on the album covers and Warhol’s work and the role music played in all of Warhol‘s work. The was entitled” “Warhol Live,” is on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and open at the Warhol Museum June, 2006.
Warhol gained fame as a commercial illustrator. His highly successful ads for the I. Miller shoe company – flamboyant, staccato drawings of shoes in all shapes and sizes – garnered him The Art Directors Club’s most prestigious honor in 1957. After that came spreads in fashion magazines, lucrative window displays for Tiffany and Bonwit Teller and eventually his first gallery shows.
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