THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Who Shot Rock & Roll" at the Brooklyn Museum

The iconic and infamous cover the walls at the Brooklyn Museum's fine exhibition (on view till January 31, 2010), "Who Shot Rock & Roll."

Yes you will see many old favorites, like John Lennon wearing a New York City sleeveless tee in Bob Gruen's contact sheet from the familiar 1974 shoot. You will see him again in Richard Avedon's 1967 formal portraits of the Beatles, their mop hair newly coiffed. And again in Allan Tannenbaum's shot of John and Yoko in bed, NYC, 1980 just two weeks before he died. The text explains that Lennon liked Tannenbaum's work: "You really capture Yoko's beauty."

And that sums up the essence of this show's raison d'etre as curated by Gail Buckland who also edited the excellent catalogue, to focus on the photographers, how the subject inspired them and the photographic arts.

What fascinates is remembering the B-52's as in George DuBose's 1978 photograph, or Ike and Tina in Memphis in 1962, as in Ernest C. Withers' photo that shows Ike's eagle eye trained on her wailing at the mike, or Amy Arbus' 1983 black & white Madonna in a boxy coat before Kabbalah and before she was buff juxtaposed with the dizzying 2001 "Madonna I" by Andreas Gursky emphasizing the pop star in the marketplace, that is, 15 combined exposures taken over a period of days from the same vantage point at the same moment in a concert with a tiny well-lit singer to the bottom left, when lights flash, confetti falls, and people hang upside down from scaffolding mechanically lowered from the stage. Epic-scale, monumental, the celestial shot overwhelms.

Buddy Holly on the bus in a 1958 Lew Allen photo, Dennis Hopper's James Brown in 1964, a wistful Elvis at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis by Lloyd Shearer in 1956, David Gahr's 1968 Janis Joplin, Jill Furmanovsky's Joy Division in 1979 and her 1977 Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Ray Stevenson's Sex Pistols on Carnaby Street in 1976, William "Popsie" Randolph's shot of the Brooklyn Paramount where Alan Freed staged his rock and roll shows in 1955, Godlis' 1976 Patti Smith outside CBGB and Stephanie Chernikowski's 1978 "Debbie Harry CBGB NYC" take you down Memory Lane.

On opening night last Thursday, the museum featured photographer Josh Cheuse DJing, while many of the photographers--Godlis, Marcia Resnick, Bob Gruen, Allan Tannenbaum among them--milled about with a film crew in tow. Bob Gruen had a birthday party a few nights before where Bebe Buell performed songs from her new CD "Sugar" with Ronnie Spektor in attendance.

On this night, with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrating across the river, the Brooklyn Museum rocked with Blondie: Debbie Harry in black wig and black satin suit with red glitter, performing her hits: "Call Me," "Heart of Glass," and "One Way or Another"; her cover of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop" was evocative, like the rest of this show, of a rich, remarkable, and resonant music history.

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