I’ve written many a post in the past about the connection between fashion and music. There’s a reason for that. The two, for me, are forever tied together.
There’s a reason for that, too. It was through the looks of bands like Roxy Music, The Jam, The Cure, David Bowie, Japan, Duran Duran, Blondie, The Specials, Sade and countless others (I could go on for days with this list…), that my visual vocabulary (along with my musical education, of course) was formed.
These were and are, not just singers and musicians, but to me, artists working with many different mediums. They went beyond composing and arranging notes and words into music and performing them on stage. They were also staging their image, working on compositions of record sleeves (which at the time, were a huge part of your experience while the record was played for the first time), arranging models for photographs and setting the stage for the scene they invited you into with their music videos.
It was through these mini films of the ’80s, that I learned about far-off places (how can anyone forget the children of Sri Lanka laughing with Simon and JT?). It was through their clothes that I heard designer and stylist names for the first time – Antony Price, for one. It was because of album covers and limited edition record sleeves that I was schooled in pop art and fetish fashion photography during the same week. The inspiration from those 12″ singles lasted well beyond a dozen years and singled out my love of visual culture.
Bryan Ferry and Karl Stoecker - For Your Pleasure, 1973 - an image so far ahead of its time.
These musicians became my art teachers, in many ways.
So to me, it was fitting to find out that Mr. Ferry is featured in a solo art show at LA’s Michael Kohn Gallery.
The show displays some of the final artwork created for Roxy albums between 1972 and 1983, along with Ferry’s solo album visuals. What’s better, is that it also presents the process of getting there and what was left behind, with studies and alternate versions of artwork and photography.
Bryan Ferry and Neil Kirk - Manifesto, 1979.
Ferry, who was schooled in art, has always made it an integral part of his business – the business of creating. Well before branding buzzwords, this gentleman curated the experience he wanted you to have, the emotion that he wanted his music and his images to create for you. He may not always have done it with a brushstroke, or hung it on an actual wall (until now), but he gave you a visual feast to dive into, from the very beginning of his career. He did it most recently, with the dreamy and layered journey that is Olympia, by mixing Moss with Manet.
One Night, by Bryan Ferry and Adam Whitehead featuring Kate Moss, 2010.
Like any good artist worth his salt and pepper (suits him, no?), he has had a mass of muses. (Mrs. Hince returned the favour by having him perform at her wedding, this summer.) Olympia, also features a cover of Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren. His original Siren was of course, Jerry Hall. (Note the electric blue nails on Ms. Hall, below. In 1975. Also, there seems to be a cheekbone déjà vu going on in these four images.)
Bryan Ferry and Graham Hughes featuring Jerry Hall on Siren, 1975.
It’s different from marketing music today, I think. Having grown up with his words and images for a good part of my life, I think his intent has been, not necessarily to market to us, but to communicate with us, to provoke, to seduce, to complement his music. I really think it comes from a place of art, first, before commerce.
Definitions aside, there’s no denying the visual impact his work has had. And isn’t that where art starts?
I wish I could get to LA before next week to see the show, which runs until November 5th. Happily, though, I will get to see Mr. Ferry in the farewell leg of his Olympia tour, later this year.
Images courtesy of Michael Kohn Gallery.