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Entertainment & Arts

Gary Cannone’s parody album covers give conceptual art the heavy metal treatment

Gary Cannone conceptual artist album parodies
“Metal Ballads,” 2015, by Gary Cannone, which blends album cover art for heavy metal ballads with sculpture by Richard Serra.
(Gary Cannone)

Conceptual art can be opaque. It can be abstruse. It can be confounding. It can also shred harder than Yngwie Malmsteen steamrolling at high speeds through the blazing metal licks of “Far Beyond the Sun.”

Well, at least in the hands of Gary Cannone it can.

For five years, the Los Angeles artist has been making and collecting mock album covers that fuse the wildly different universes of popular music and conceptual art. This includes a version of KISS’s album “Lick It Up” illustrated with a photograph of a 1964 happening by Allan Kaprow that features a group of women licking jam off a car (a statement on consumerism). Or a Photoshopped image of a disembodied leg sculpture by Robert Gober on the cover of the soundtrack for “The Graduate.”

Gary Cannone mock conceptual artist album covers
"Robert Gober: The Graduate," 2015, by Gary Cannone, a mock album cover that inserts sculpture by Robert Gober into the soundtrack art for "The Graduate."
(Gary Cannone)

“I was in a punk band in the early ‘80s and a lot of the people who contributed were in bands too,” says Cannone of the fusion of music and art. “It kind of satisfied this weird urge of having lived in both worlds.”

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An exhibition at Arcana Books on the Arts in Culver City will feature prints that Cannone and his collaborators have made of some of the parodies — he now has between 500 and 550, many of which he has crowd-sourced through social media. Also on sale will be a related book, “Gary Cannone: Forever Now,” which compiles some of the best mashups.

Though many of the album covers are funny on their own — who doesn’t love seeing French philosopher Guy Debord photoshopped into the graphic for the Chicago album “Hot Streets”? — it helps to have some knowledge of art when deciphering the plays on words and images that appear in the series.

Richard Serra’s weighty Cor-Ten steel sculptures embrace a pair of hot rock lovers on an album cover advertising “Metal Ballads.” Gober’s disembodied leg sculpture adds a hint of the grotesque to an image that is all about flirtation: Anne Bancroft hoisting her pantyhose-clad leg before a befuddled Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”

The movie poster, notes Cannone, “dealt with the sexualizing of body parts.” But “Gober’s use of anatomy is quite different. It’s this disembodied object. His mom was a nurse who carried body parts after amputations.”

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Gary Cannone Albums by Conceptual Artists Allan Kaprow
"Alan Kaprow: Lick It Up," 2015, by Gary Cannone. which blends album graphics from KISS's "Lick it Up" and images from an Allan Kaprow happening titled "Household."
(Gary Cannone)

The project, titled “Albums by Conceptual Artists,” began as a lark in 2014. The artist had been working on parodies of well-known art works and took a text piece by famed conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner and changed it to cooking instructions.

“It was this declarative language,” Cannone says. “So I called it ‘Cooking with Lawrence Weiner.’”

A friend told Cannone that the phrase sounded like “the lamest jazz album ever.” So, he went to his computer and created a mock album cover which featured an image of Weiner with a photoshopped chef’s hat and saxophone. He posted the image on social media. Others soon responded with their own mashups.

Gary Cannone Conceptual Artist Album Covers Adrian Piper
“Adrian Piper: TV Party,” a mock album cover by Gary Cannone fuses an installation by conceptual artist Adrian Piper with Black Flag’s “TV Party.”
(Gary Cannone)

That inspired even more parodies. So he set up a Tumblr page to gather them all.

This includes a faux album cover featuring the late German artist Joseph Bueys in a band called “Beuys II Men” submitted by artist Violet Ryder, and another, by Amy Sarkisian, that shows an image of French sculptor Louise Bourgeois holding one of her infamous phallus sculptures against the heavy metal backdrop of Iron Maiden. (The band’s name was taken from a fictional 19th century torture device: a casket with spikes that impaled the living person inside — the sort of conceptual object, in other words, that pairs nicely with a large, severed phallus.)

“I feel like, in a way, the project is by and for people who get into arcane art minutiae and music minutiae,” says Cannone.

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The exhibition at Arcana will gather 35 to 40 images from Cannone’s collection of more than 500. At the opening, author Tosh Berman will also be on-site to play records connected with artists in the show.

Gary Cannone Conceptual Artist Album Covers Walter De Maria
“Walter De Maria: Ride the Lightning Field,” by Gary Cannone, a mock album cover that blends a Metallica album with Walter De Maria’s “Lightning Field."
(Gary Cannone )



Gary Cannone: Albums by Conceptual Artists
  • Where: Arcana, 8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City

  • When: Opens Saturday at 4 p.m. and runs through September 1.


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