What do you do with Gerry Rafferty’s 1979 album Night Owl? It is a gold record selling over 500,000 units (records, tapes or compact discs) so it is not rare but not as popular as Rafferty’s Baker Street that has sold 5.5 million copies. And if you had listened to it in the last ten years you would be getting more use out of it than most owners. So why not paint it?
The vinyl record has become a popular support for street art paintings. It is symbolic of music and turntables although once painted no longer functional; it is the street art equivalent of turning an old book into art. Spin That Thing at Famous When Dead Gallery is an exhibition of painted 12-inch records by visual artists (not recording artists) from around the world – Australia, Iran, Netherlands, Norway and the USA.
The opening on Friday night was busy and numerous records sold before I arrived. Toby and Melika, from 696, were waiting outside for Catlin Rigby to tell her that both her pieces had sold. The prices are reasonable, most were between $100 and $200; J.D. said that next time he does an exhibition of painted records there will be a standard price. I talked with a few people (hi Fray and Doyle) as I worked my way around the crowded room, first with a beer in hand, the second time with my notebook.
It is a good exhibition, there are 75 12-inch images to look at, but it is patchy. Only a few of the artists (mostly from Melbourne, Australia) used the format of the record in the art. Liz Racz used the round 12 inches diameter piece of black vinyl form with a spindle hole in the middle effectively. Racz uses the nail supporting the record in the middle to puncture the painted hands in both her images: “Sister Clancy Bernadette obeys Her Master’s Voice” and “Sister Clancy Bernadette’s DIY Miracle of the Other Hand”. Adi makes reference to the content of the Rick Wakeman album that it is painted on with her image “The Tree That Whispered A Secret To Merlin”, as well as, on another record using paper cutting on an album sleeve to reveal the image painted on the record. On a less attractive note, Paul Wain simply broke records and glued them on top of others.
A few of the artists have made musical references, like Mark Whatson from Norway remixes the iPod advertising images, or Megan Dell from Melbourne “Not the Beetles”. But most just used the record as a support for art, like the powerful psycho pop images of Miz Cery and ZKLR, from Brisbane. Harddrive from Stanton, USA ignores the format all together and glues 5 or 8 records together to create a larger surface. Most of the art is aerosol stencil but there are a few brush paintings and a few collages (including two beautiful ones by Papermonster from New York).
And finally it appears that Gerry Rafferty has disappeared.