Tag Archive | Harry Nilsson

Erik den Breejen’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On at Freight and Volume

Lou Reed
As Pure and Strange as What I See (For Lou Reed), 2013 (All Photos By Gail)

Painter Erik den Breejen is back at Freight + Volume for There’s a Riot Goin’ On, his fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. Den Breejen’s paintings play with a mosaic of text, color, and pattern, and the embodiment of music, film, comedy and literature. He uses lyrics, quotes, jokes, and poems of iconic figures from the early 1970s to express the collective – and sometimes tragic – unconscious of the time.

Lou Reed Lyrics
Loud Reed Lyrics make up the Image of Reed, Seen Above

The title of the exhibition, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, comes from the 1971 Sly & The Family Stone album of the same, which itself was named in response to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album (also 1971). In a one-two punch, the paintings use text to create both mosaic-like portraits as well as project the voice of these cultural icons.

Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor Bits
Detail of Richard Pryor Image

There’s a Riot Goin’ On takes a commanding look back at the early 70’s and specifically explores the lives and work of creative revolutionaries such as Richard Pryor, Harry Nilsson, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Den Breejen investigates the role of the artist as messenger from another state of consciousness.

Nilsson Schmilsson
Nilsson Schmilsson (Harry Nilsson)

Nilsson Lyrics
Detail of Harry Nilsson Image

These artists, comedians, musicians, poets, and rock stars channeled their inspiration to confront the rules and norms of their time. Den Breejen chooses as his subject radicals who engaged and challenged their generation. His portraits revisit and transform their observations. His recent paintings tell a history that has been recorded, portrayed, lived and felt by these people. In this sense, his technique can be seen as a kind of time travel.

Karen Carpenter
Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter Lyrics
Detail of Karen Carpenter Image

One cool thing about this exhibit is that the further away from the image you are, the clearer and less pixelated the image appears to the naked eye. I also enjoyed searching for certain lyrics in the paintimgs, and trying to recognize images I didn’t immediately know from what was written on the canvas. You can make a fun game out of it when you go to see this exhibit!

Liza Minelli
Liza Minelli

Liza Minelli Lyrics
Detail of Liza Minella Image

Erik den Breejen’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On will be on Exhibit Through June 7th, 2014 at Freight and Volume, Located at 530 W. 24th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Erik den Breejen Signage

Remembering Harry Nilsson on his Birthday

Harry Nilsson Grave Stone

The late, great singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was born on this day, June 15th, in 1941. I recently watched the unbelievably well-made documentary, Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? which is now available on DVD via Netflix.

I’m a huge fan of Nilsson’s music, as he reached the height of his popularity in the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up, so I thought I knew a lot about the guy. But Who is Harry Nilsson? gave me quite a schooling on the details of Nilsson’s life and career that I couldn’t have imagined.

This insightful documentary goes way back to his childhood, his family life, his early career writing songs for others that grew into his own recording career as a solo artist, his film soundtrack projects, personal friendships with other songwriters and musicians (Nilsson was a favorite artist of all four Beatles and he maintained close friendships with John Lennon and Ringo Starr until his death) and a wildly in-depth overview of his recording process via interviews with those he worked closely with (the interviews with producer Richard Perry alone are worth the time it takes to watch the film).

Of course, it’s not like you don’t know how the story is going to end. A well-covered topic in Who Is Harry Nilsson? is the artist’s ridiculously indulgent and debauched Rock Star Lifestyle, which lead directly to his early death at age 52 – a tragic waste of an extraordinary and irreplaceable talent.

I was entirely captivated, entertained and profoundly moved by the life story of Harry Nilsson, who was extremely respected for his talent and considered by his peers to be the greatest American singer of his generation. There is no doubt that his influence is vast and deeply felt even today. Harry Nilsson died on January 15th, 1994 from heart failure brought on by a lifetime of alcoholism and hard drug abuse. If he were still alive, he would be celebrating his Birthday today. Happy Birthday, Harry, we still miss you.