An exhibition of the visual artifacts of America's most iconic rock 'n' roll band.
From 1961-65, they emerged as the face of West Coast surf and hot rod culture, with candy-striped stage uniforms and an All-American image that graced best-selling album covers and teen magazines worldwide. Then in 1966 leader Brian Wilson changed the group's image from that of teenage surf minstrels to psychedelic avatars with the creation of his masterpieces: "Pet Sounds" and "Smile." Their visuals changed with it and pretty soon the Beach Boys of the late sixties came to embody topics such as eco-consciousness, free love, pacifism, and civil rights. (Their own imprint, Brother Records, featured the image of the famous "Appeal to the Great Spirit" statue, which depicted a Native American on horseback, arms open to the sky, head tilted back, in a cry of timeless pathos.)
By 1976 the band's progressive direction had faded and almost overnight they became a tepid nostalgic act. Gone were the distinctive album covers, wistful hippie posters, and pop-art magazine covers of the early years. In their place came a host of cheap pastiches and poorly-designed products based in the aesthetic they helped to pioneer. The fans were not ready to give up, however, and from 1977-95 took things into their own hands, spawning the next great wave of Beach Boys-related art from within the underground. This meant bootleg albums, fanzines, and a whole host of unsanctioned posters and other visuals produced unofficially (i.e. illegally).
This exhibition draws on the many visual elements that went into making the Beach Boys the pop culture institution they are today. It will include ephemeral objects such as album sleeves, sheet music books, magazine covers, promo photos, and concert posters. One-of-a-kind sketches and unused artwork will also be on display, as will rare foreign pressings of iconic Beach Boys LPs and 45s, which often featured different designs than the U.S. versions. The compendium of fan-produced artwork is perhaps the greatest revelation of all in this exhibition. It shows the stake they felt in something that in so many ways changed their lives. It is this possessive quality, in fact, that is relevant to collectors of every stripe; and as a result the entire collection of work shown here can serve as a window unto the collaborative social process that produces our cultural icons.