Oct 27, 2011

REVIEW | Sound Zero,Valerio Dehò, Damiani, 2006

Cover of Sound Zero 


When I first saw the book Sound Zero by Valerio Dehò I was so intrigued by the beautiful color images illustrated throughout the book that I immediately had to purchase the book. After reading the book, I discovered how much pop culture influenced art and music in the 1970’s and still today. The book discusses art and music starting with pop, moving to the psychedelic influence, and onto street art.
The book starts off by discussing how the term popular became synonymous with the term universal. It is essential to understand that before pop art was introduced, art was considered implicit by only the high society and was not easily rendered to everyone. When the pop art movement started, it was something new, unexpected, and powerful. Dehò states in the opening of the book,
“a sound zero is a phenomenon of zeroing the neo-avant-gardes with all their utopian and intellectual baggage and not so much an actual negation as a direct attack on the foundations, on the idea of an elite that chooses for everyone, on the concept that if there is no complexity there is no form of happiness.”
What this means is that pop art created a form of hyperbole of the object and consumption. Pop culture is large and nothing more, when in general something large stands for something else. Pop art speaks a language that was everybody’s and for everybody, while at the same time music was doing the same thing. The pop dream sought only happiness and the shortest road to achieving it.

Robert Gligorov, Gamophone Amarillis, 2003, lambda print on aluminium

The book then moves on to discuss “In A Gadda Da Vida” which was an album title for the band Iron Butterfly and the art produced around music and psychedelia. Psychedelic art started in San Francisco with the generation of hippies and hallucinogenic drugs. Posters were created for the venues at which bands would play. Peter Blake and Jann Haworth designed the cover of The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band changing their cover from the typical studio shoots of the band smiling back at the camera to a collage of contemporary figures and the Beatles in front wearing brightly colored outfits. This album cover marks the death of old and in with the new. I personally had never noticed the sudden change from the previous albums and find it compelling how this idea of cover designs marked the start of the commercial value of music and how it relates other subjects like literature. Music and art side by side became a sensation of freedom by going beyond traditional aspects of music and art.

Peter Blake & Jann Haworth, The Beatles. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 2006, Odeon/EMI
The book then continues by discussing street art, Keith Haring, and graffitist’s direct contact with the public. Street art opened up to society and communicates with all sorts of people. It brings art to the people without giving name to the artist itself, hence the title “Where the Streets Have No Name”. Even today street art is open to everyone giving no degree of importance to the levels of culture. The art is close to youth giving an outlet to their needs, fears, and uncertainties. Aaron Rose states “ music is important to all cultures, especially creative cultures… and every generation finds its voice through music.” When street culture was first developed, a new generation of musicians was too giving way: the punk rock bands in the West and hip hop in the East. Rose continues to say that Warhol made it okay to be a painter, photographer, musician, filmmaker, writer, whatever touched him/her.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Believe it or not I can actually draw

I began to appreciate this book not only for the beautiful pictures all the way through, but because the text opened my eyes to a new world of seeing and understanding art. It brought an understanding to the relationship between the art world and the music industry and how Warhol changed the system of being an artist. Before reading this book, I didn’t know that Andy Warhol designed Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones or that pop culture lead the way to psychedelic art and street art. When reading about the street art, I thought back to an article I read on Hyperallergic about Kelburn Castle, a rural historic castle in Scotland. The street art designed for the castle is beautiful and brings an urban setting to the country. It is interesting to me how street art is now not only popular in urban places produced by anonymous artist but is now being commissioned on the side of a 13th century castle. Contemporary art to me is now not only art with a voice, but a means to express oneself through different means of expression.   


Anna Julian





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