Saturday, August 02, 2014

Vinyl & Giant Robot at the Oakland Museum

A couple of weekends ago, I tagged along with a friend who wanted to see 2 pop culture exhibits at the Oakland Museum before they closed. Vinyl was a room-sized installation celebrating the era of the LP. Listening stations with record players & bins of records were scattered around the gallery. Visitors could also recline on huge bean bags in the middle room.

I flipped through recordings of pop, rock, jazz, movies & spoken word, but the only classical record I came across, apart from the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, was Walter Carlos's Switched on Bach. When I took it out of its sleeve to play it, a gallery guide quickly came over to make sure I knew how to operate a record player.

Guest curators contributed crates of their favorite records for visitors to inspect & listen to. Michael Chabon's crate included Leonard Nimoy & vintage radio versions of Sherlock Holmes. Now that recorded music no longer has a physical embodiment, something like a double album cover feels like a magical object.

Next door was a large exhibit of artists associated with Giant Robot, the punk magazine & then retail store promoting Asian American pop culture.

The show had an exuberant variety. There were painting installations, skateboards, toy figurines, comics by Adrian Tomine, a Hong Kong Phooey lunchbox & a car that was actually a giant video game console.

A case crammed with the sketchbooks of Rob Sato was a good demonstration of the obsessive practice required to develop artistic skill. My museum companion stumped one of the iPad-carrying gallery guides with his inquiry about 1990s Flash animator Mumbleboy.

§ Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records 
SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot 
Oakland Museum of California
April 19–July 27, 2014

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