Art + music at the Hollywood Bowl

The punk painter Niagara put her talents to work on a moody poster for a night at the Bowl featuring Grace Jones, Of Montreal and Dengue Fever.
(Niagara / La-La Land Gallery and the Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Given its penchant for eclectic programming, it’s no surprise that the Hollywood Bowl curates its show posters the same way it curates its shows.

“Musically, we always want to do something unique,” says Laura Connelly, director of presentations for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., which oversees the Bowl’s concert lineup. “It’s not about putting all the big names together, but coming up with pairings that produce something special. The posters are a reflection of that.”

Last summer, the Bowl asked a dozen artists, including rock-graphics guru Stanley Mouse, punk painter Niagara and the retro-cool Shag to design images for performers such as Grace Jones, Pink Martini and Death Cab for Cutie. Their creations are on display in “The Hollywood Bowl Poster Artshow 2009,” which runs through Jan. 5 at the ArcLight Hollywood. The exhibit also features a new work by each artist and posters from past seasons.

“Our older posters were geared toward marketing, but in recent years, we’ve done more commemorative pieces,” says Connelly. “Sometimes an artist approached us and sometimes we approached them.” Last year, pop-art artist Kii Arens was enlisted to do a Beck poster. He came up with the requested piece as well as a proposition: Why not curate the next series in a more formal way? “I thought we could make a great snapshot of music and art meeting in L.A. in 2009,” says Arens, who owns La-La Land Gallery in Hollywood.

Connelly and her colleagues asked Arens to co-curate the project with the Phil. He and Shannon Cornett of the L.A. Phil Assn.'s presentations department, developed a wish list of artists and offered them the chance to select the musicians they wanted to portray and to share in the proceeds from their posters’ sales. Shepard Fairey chose the Beastie Boys. (The band’s appearance was later canceled.) For a blues bill, Mouse riffed on the skull-and-roses imagery he and Alton Kelley created for the Grateful Dead. Shag (a.k.a. Josh Agle) picked Pink Martini and Niagara picked Jones -- “perfect matches,” says Arens.

Even when things didn’t go as planned, he adds, “they had a way of working out.” Arens was going to base a Liza Minnelli poster on an image by photographer Guy Webster. Because the picture’s delivery was delayed, he finished the piece himself. “Then I saw the photo and it was amazing, so we did two Lizas.”

Album cover super-artist Roger Dean conjured up a beautiful design for Aretha Franklin, says Arens, “but Roger’s style is futuristic and semi-psychedelic and Aretha wanted something classier, rather than so groovy. Usually, the artist makes a painting and that’s it. But with a poster, the musical artist holds the trump card. So we called Chris Reccardi, who just finished ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.’ Aretha loved what he did.”

The poster series also includes works by Tim Biskup, Mike Davis, Camille Rose Garcia, Daniel Gibson, Gary Taxali and Kevin Willis. The show’s poster was designed by David Weidman, whose whimsical ‘50s and ‘60s-era cartoon backgrounds remain classics. “We hope to do this again next year,” says Connelly.