Like a Rolling Stone is an exhibition about rock and rock. Conflating geology and rock music, it considers the ways in which two seemingly unrelated subjects linked by the same homograph share associations and points of contact that are both concrete and implied. Emerging artists, artists with international reputations and iconic artists are brought together in an exhibition that includes painting, photography, sculpture, video and documentation of performances.
Landscape imagery ranging from the sublime to the apocalyptic is a staple in the song lyrics and visual materials of rock music—consider the album covers of Yes and other classic rock bands, or the Nordic vistas summoned by contemporary Viking Metal bands such as Windir. Speaking in relation to her work The Bolero Project, included in the exhibition, Laura Piasta describes how record covers—something you hold in your hand while listening to the music—depict “either the musician or something that’s supposed to represent the music visually. So you have this connection and a narrative that you produce in your mind, but it's just from one image.” Los Angeles photographer Melanie Schiff also plays with the tropes of rock-band iconography in her work, Whitesnake.
Evoking the spirit of This is Spinal Tap, a mockumentary that plays off the affectations and absurdity of rock, Myfanwy MacLeod has reproduced the enigmatic object of Led Zeppelin’s Presence album—which, in turn, was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the obelisk in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to Jimmy Paige. Like the album art version (or the Stonehenge replica of Spinal Tap), MacLeod’s is incongruously small, odd and disconcertingly anti-monumental.
The lore and semiotics of heavy metal are at play in the work of Vancouver artist and designer Sean Coggins. His work in the exhibition includes a mandala installation that grows out of Black Metal’s rituals and mysticism, as well as a series of drawings related to the subculture’s band logos, which are so obscure and illegible to the uninitiated that they take on other characteristics and potential readings.
Berlin-based Slater Bradley plunges into the mystique of the pop idol in his series Doppelganger Trilogy. In each of the videos Bradley’s doppelganger Benjamin Brock plays the part of three fallen icons: Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson. Shot as low fidelity documentations of performance, Bradley’s fictive versions link to specific times in his own life as much as they do to key moments in pop culture. Along with the video work, the exhibition includes a large painting by Bradley that is part of a series based on Joy Division bootlegs.
The rock icon is also depicted in German artist Nadja Frank’s work, although this time the homograph’s other meaning is invoked. In her Rock Portrait series, Frank photographs rocks collected from various locations and prints them on the scale normally reserved for celebrity headshots. The humble rock, picked up as a kind of souvenir, is elevated to iconic status. Unlike human idols, however, the rock’s strength isn’t diminished by time or scandal. The exhibition also includes Frank’s photograph of a quarry, which unintentionally resembles a concert stage.
Vancouver artists Kevin Romaniuk and Liam Hogan work collaboratively focusing on outsider subcultures, occult rituals, rock and roll lineages and stoner mysticism. Their site-specific work Rock & Roll Henge, created for this presentation, functions as a social space where events will be held throughout the duration of the exhibition.
A performative engagement with landscape is strongly associated with the Land Art and Body Art movements of the 1960s and 70s. Two key artists of this time were Dennis Oppenheim and Ana Mendieta. In his 1970 film Rocked Hand, Oppenheim buries one hand with the other until it becomes fully imperceptible within its surroundings. In Mendieta’s 1974 film Burial Pyramid, the artist’s buried body slowly emerges from under a pile of rocks.
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