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The Mother's of Invention's Weasels Ripped My Flesh album cover designed by Neon Park xii on display at the Goldstein Museum's new exhibit.

Hip to be square

LP covers make the museum scene

Published on January 28, 2005

In case you've been in a coma the last few years, the news is that LPs are making a comeback. In fact, they're the only really cool way to listen to music these days. A new exhibit at the Goldstein Museum of Design on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul, "Hip Art That's Square," which runs through April 3, features more than 300 LP record covers from the archive of Minneapolis collector Richard Shelton. Numbering more than 18,000 covers, Shelton's collection includes such must-haves as Jack Kerouac's Poetry for the Beat Generation. The show, curated by Shelton and Goldstein graphic arts curator Steven McCarthy, features enviable and little seen covers like The Beatles' short-lived "Butcher" cover for the Yesterday and Today album, Andy Warhol's "Banana" cover for The Velvet Underground and Nico, and the John Lennon and Yoko Ono album covers Two Virgins and The Wedding.

"One great attribute of music is how it affects our memory. We all have songs that evoke different moments in time," states Shelton. "What better way of looking at our history than through the lens of music and the art that surrounds it."

An opening-night party will be held Saturday, January 29, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Goldstein. In the spirit of the LP era, DJ Michael Cina will be spinning records while partygoers view the exhibition and enjoy refreshments. Visitors will be able to listen to individual songs from approximately 50 of the albums on view, as part of an interactive computer kiosk. An exhibition guide with an essay, Material/Immaterial: The Album Cover as Art and Icon, by Colleen Sheehy, director of education at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, will also be available to attendees.

"Hip Art That's Square" is not organized according to music genre. Rather, the exhibition is curated from a design perspective exploring such design issues, themes, practices, and techniques as typography, designer, illustration vs. photography, dye cutting, gate fold, box set, package design, and censorship. According to Shelton, "I think we are really just beginning to think of the LP cover as an art form, and bringing it into the gallery. There are many books on the subject, but very few exhibitions."

Through the exhibit's LP cover images and design, the teen explosion of the 1940s and 1950s, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and the rebellious punk rock movement are all vividly recalled. "One great attribute of music is how it affects our memory. We all have songs that evoke different moments in time," states Shelton. "What better way of looking at our history than through the lens of music and the art that surrounds it."

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