Saturday, May 15, 2010

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Kurt Cobain exhibit in Seattle

Grunge music is about as universally synonymous with modern-day Seattle as Starbucks and Microsoft, and no band symbolizes this movement more readily than Nirvana. The late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain is easily the most recognizable icon from this period, famous for his heart wrenching lyrics, aggressive left-handed guitar playing, scraggly blond locks and premature demise. On view at the Seattle Art Museum from May 13 through September 6, 2010, the exhibition Kurt will reveal the extent to which his music and biography continue to exert a strong pull on our collective consciousness.

Please click HERE if you can't see the above-video.

Known as "Kurt," the SAM event "will explore the ways in which the grunge movement's most iconic figure continues to influence modern artists from a multitude of disciplines," according to an announcement by Darling. The curator also said that the exhibit "asks viewers to question why and how Kurt Cobain came to mean so much to a generation."

Alice Wheeler's photograph of Kurt Cobain at MTV's "Live and Loud" at Pier 63 in Seattle, 1993.

To be clear: This is not a display of Nirvana ephemera, guitars, CD covers, or the yellow gown Cobain wore on MTV. It's an exhibition of drawings, paintings, photographs, installations, and mixed-media works by artists — including Elizabeth Peyton, Douglas Gordon, and Daniel Guzman, as well as Northwest artists such as Scott Fife, Jeffry Mitchell, Jessica Jackson Hutchins — who are making some provocative, nuanced stuff right now.

All of the works of art began with some kind of connection with Cobain. Some of these connections are immediately, almost painfully, direct, as in Alice Wheeler's color-saturated photograph of Cobain in Seattle in 1993. Cobain is pale and scruffy beneath cherry-red sunglasses and multicolored tinsel garlands; the image captures Cobain's tendency to play with glamor and image, along with an underlying frailty.

Some of the works of art become more conceptually abstract, as in Gretchen Bennett's color pencil drawings. Bennett, who recently relocated from New York to Seattle, creates work out of a wide range of materials and often thinks about how environment, landscape and climate affect what can be produced. She was drawn to Cobain's story and "how Nirvana emanated from this landscape," but she was interested in taking a more "non-iconic, everyday approach." She searched YouTube for homemade videos of Nirvana in concert and isolated certain moments of gesture and lighting when Cobain became visually obliterated or pixelated. She further transformed these images by turning them into color pencil drawings that have a sweet ordinariness to them, despite all of the complex implications of mediation and image dissemination.

Might be worth the trip to the Emerald City to check it out.

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Stacy Alexander