Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard to Show Collages at Modified Arts in Phoenix
Robert Pollard See art from Pollard, including Dramatic Center Of Interest, at Modified Arts.
There are few people in popular music today as prolific as Robert Pollard. Pollard is best known as the leader of the influential indie rock band Guided by Voices, lo-fi legends whose albums are densely packed with pocket-sized exercises in hooky rock magic, and he's also released a steady stream of solo recordings and offshoot projects such as the Boston Spaceships, the Circus Devils, Lifeguards, and the Keene Brothers. The fact that Pollard has released 25 solo albums between 1996 and 2013 says a lot; that Guided by Voices has put out three box sets of unreleased material with 100 songs each says even more.
You'd think that Pollard would be creatively spent with that sort of musical output, but you'd be wrong. Pollard also creates the cover artwork for most of his albums, collages that use found elements to create images every bit as striking as his music. The psychedelic drum on the cover of Alien Lanes, the trains snaking out of a gentleman's mouth on Standard Gargoyle Decisions, or the detourned Native American images of Under the Bushes, Under the Stars reveal that Pollard's visual ideas are as canny as his musical instincts.
Pollard's artwork has evolved into a separate career. In 2008, Fantagraphics Books published a collection of his pieces, Town of Mirrors, and around the same time, he began exhibiting his work in galleries. With Pollard presenting his art at Modified Arts in Phoenix as part of the group show "Chimerical," which opens Friday, April 18, he took time to answer a few questions from Jackalope Ranch about his visual work by e-mail from his home in Dayton, Ohio.
Courtesy of Robert Pollard Pollard's Blue and Red Caterpillars will be on view at Modified.
How did you first get involved in visual art? Do you have any formal training in that area?
I think I became inspired, initially, by the Hipgnosis album covers of the late '60s and early '70s. (Hipgnosis were a design firm founded by Storm Thorgerson, best known for his work with Pink Floyd. -- Ed.) They did a lot of the artwork for the British prog rock label Harvest, Pink Floyd, the Pretty Things, and such. Very surreal, with a lot of interesting graphics and mechanical drawings. I used to emulate them a lot with fake album covers I made in my teens. I have no formal training other than a few art classes in high school and college.
You're best known for your work in collage. Do you work in any other visual media?
Not really. I take an occasional photograph. I made a film in high school with a few friends. I used to do pencil drawings and watercolor paintings.
What attracts you to collage?
The immediacy. The cross-pollination of mediums. The fact that I feel like I'm actually painting with paper, using borrowed images. One can actually create depth, contour, shading, and composition with found and re-assembled imagery. It's very exciting and addictive. Playing with color schemes. I also enjoy the hunt for source material.
How do you find the elements for your pieces? Do you actively seek them out, or do you simply keep an eye open?
I keep an eye open, but mostly I seek material in thrift stores, flea markets, bookstores, and wherever else. There's a Goodwill Outlet in Dayton that has become a virtual goldmine for me. Occasionally, friends will bring me books and magazines.
When you're working on your art, what comes first, the elements or the overall idea for the piece?
What I typically do is look for elements within a larger image. Something that is not considered to be a major constituent of the overall image, whether it be a photo, a diagram or whatever, but nonetheless attracts the eye if zeroed in on or examined more closely. Then I cut those images out, lay them out on a table and try to match them with similar, complimentary images or colors.