THE BLOG
01/01/2011 12:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Closing This Weekend -- Two Shows of Artists Who Use Music as Inspiration

Regrettably all good things must end and so do art exhibitions. Two that are closing this weekend can be found in arts institutions rather than galleries or museums; they are the Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool show at The Asia Society (725 Park Avenue at 70th St. which is still open through tomorrow) and Jazz at First Sight: The Art of David Stone Martin exhibition in the arcade of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall (60th Street and Broadway).

Both artists cross boundaries between illustration and fine art and both have done album cover work inspired by their respective music genres -- in Nara's case, punk rock and folk and in David Stone Martin's swing jazz and bebop.

Each one has such a unique style as to be genre defining and both have been under-recognized in different ways and at different times in their careers.

Born in 1913, David Livingstone Martin studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and was influenced by the great Jewish artist Ben Shahn's line work. Over the years he did the cover art for more than 400 releases (some were LPs, others were singles or 10 inchers) and illustration for magazines until he died of pneumonia in New London, Connecticut, on March 1992. Given his use of the crowquill pen's scratchy yet fluid lifework, his images reflected the tonal richness and improvisational flights of fancy of many of musicians he stylized such as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Billie Holiday.

In the case of the Japanese-born Nara, this exhibition featuring more that 100 of his works -- from paintings, drawings, illustrations, album covers and installations -- shows how he evolved from a more traditional art-schoolish approach to painting to become a leading proponent of the neo-pop kawa-kawai (creepy cute) school of pop-art.

Though his images include cute kids and animals they are rendered with a sinister side that reflects the punk rock that so much impacted him as he grew up in the '70s to '90s. Much of the work shocks in its sweetness-on-the-surface first impression that devolves into a much darker feeling upon closer viewing.

Anyone interested in seeing work that uses popular music as both context and source material, should make it to any future exhibitions of these artists or check out their books. If so, there is still a chance to see important artists having a greater aesthetic impact on art in general working from very different but related inspirations.