Story by Paityn Langley
Photo by Luke Nankivell
When walking into Drake University’s Anderson Gallery, there are collections of albums mounted along the walls, hanging from the ceiling and placed within display tables. In the exhibit, music plays in the background, giving guests the opportunity to both see the album work and listen to the featured band’s music.
On Sept. 6, the Anderson Gallery opened the exhibit “The Material Aspect: 50 Years of Popular Music Packaging.” The exhibit, curated by Drake art and design professor John Fender, includes hundreds of uniquely designed LP and CD packaging ranging from The Beatles to Radiohead to Autechre.
The exhibit required a lot of preparation.
“I actually started working on this show four years ago, trying to pull things together and look through things,” Fender said. “Primarily, it just built out of my own personal interest and my collection.”
Fender’s keen eye for unique album packaging started long ago.
“My interest kind of stems back to high school. I still remember when I bought that Sex Pistols record. When I walked out of the store I felt like I robbed it,” Fender said laughing. “It was powerful even then, the impact of packaging. Those kinds of things have always stuck with me.”
Corresponding information was provided for every piece in the exhibit, including the name of the album, the year of publication, the artists’ name, the label company and a detailed explanation of the designer’s thought process behind the finished product.
Heather Skeens, director of the Anderson Gallery, had a slightly different history with album art.
“I was really most excited to work in a medium and in a field that I really do not know a lot about,” Skeens said. “(Album packaging) wasn’t something that I interacted with a lot as a child growing up. I haven’t interacted with it much as an adult either. So going through things with John was really fu I had no idea how intricate some of these packages are.”
“It’s not just so much about the music as it is the point of view of the designer, the combination of artists and what results from that,” Fender said.
The exhibit depicts just how detailed the process is when creating album art.
“Some of these are really amazing, the material the designer is using, the way they packaged it and how they carry the design from the outer sleeve, to the inner sleeve, to the album cover. It’s really interesting,” Skeens said.
Sophomore elementary education major Maizey Mantsch attended the opening of the exhibit.
“Although I did not know too many of the bands, a lot of the designs are really interesting,” Mantsch said. “I love pop culture and art, so I really liked this exhibit.”
This exhibit, free of charge, will remain open to the public at the Anderson Gallery until Oct. 18. The Anderson Gallery has invited Drake alum and founder of Moon Glyph record label, Steve Rosborough, to host a gallery talk tonight at 7 p.m Rosborough will lead a discussion about his personal experiences with his record label as it relates to album packaging.