The Blur 21 Exhibition was an art exhibition held at the Londonewcastle gallery in East London presented by Idea Generation, from July 27th to August 14th, 2012. This exhibition showcased artwork, memorabilia and images taken during their 21 year long career, by iconic top photographers and artists such as Pennie Smith, Kevin Davies, Alex Lake, Stylorogue (Rob O'Connor), Paul Postle, Chris Thomson, Kevin Cummins, Paul Spencer, Tom Sheehan, Banksy, Julian Opie and more.
Blur, An Introduction:
Blur, are an English Rock Band, who formed in 1988, and have become one of the most influential Brit Pop bands of the 90's. The band itself consists of 4 members, with Alex James on bass guitar, Graham Coxon on guitar, David Rowntree on drums, with of course Damon Albarn on vocals, who further went on to being the frontman for the virtual band, Gorillaz. Alongside rivalling Rock band Oasis, Blur are best known for their experimental sound, ranging from raunchy rock songs such as 'Song 2', peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart in 1997, to more bubblegum pop inspired tracks like 'Girls & Boys', getting. number 5 on the UK Singles Chart in 1994, showing the more playful side to the band.
Inspired by English guitar pop groups such as The Beatles, Blur have set the stage for popularisation of Brit Pop from the 90's-2000's; although they didn't quite break through to the rest of the world, with their highest charting single 'Song 2' hitting number 6 on Billboard US, they are still renowned for being one of the most essential bands to Brit Pop and Rock the United Kingdom has ever seen, and they certainly have stayed that way all these decades later. With 6 consecutive Blur studio albums topping the British charts, there is no way the band can be labelled as anything less than legendary; Blur's sixth album 'The Magic Whip', released in 2015, became their sixth album to top the charts, once again proving their legendary status all these years later. The band have been largely on hiatus since this album's release tour, however as a result they have left behind an illustrious and eminent status in the UK's music scene and history.
A Few Of The Artists:
Kevin Cummins is a British photographer, who is best known for photographing rock bands and musicians, such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Morrissey, Joy Division, Courtney Love, Oasis, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Smiths and many more, of course including Blur. Due to his work photographing these rock musicians in Manchester in the 70's, his photography work have been a huge contribution to the rise of Madchester as well as Cool Britannia. Above is one of his iconic images of Blur, taken in March of 1993.
Stylorogue is a graphic design studio based in Kent, and first formed in London by Rob O'Connor. They have created artwork and designs for bands/musicians such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Morrissey, Stereophonics, Adam Ant, Squeeze, The Cure as well as of course, Blur. In fact, the studio curated and designed Blur's first ever logo, and has continued to be seen doing work with them up to 2013. Above is one of their designs for Blur.
This exhibition was nothing less than brilliant, as it didn't just showcase photographs and call it a day, it was an immersive experience, with headphones connected to the walls to stream their hits and give an insight into their world, to artist memorabilia, portraits, awards, art. It truly encapsulated Brit Pop's most influential band all into one scenery. Ranging from their very first portrait to their last, it took viewers on a new journey, with never before seen photography, unused stuff from sessions, it had the power to take fans through Blur's lens, with one attendee stating "takes me back to the bedroom of my adolescence and the summer of 1994 spent listening to Parklife on a loop. A key part of this exhibition that made it so special and personal was the personal relationship between Blur and their photographers. Their portraits have an authenticity to them; this can be greatly credited to how the band only worked with photographers that they trusted, as well as the band always being very involved in the whole process. They were treated as if they were a part of the band, which truly made this gallery shine; their entire persona and artistic vision was able to be conveyed in so many ways, that having so many of these portraits and Blur memorabilia together in one Exhibition felt like a time machine to the 90's.
One immersive factor of this exhibition was the inclusion of the evolution of the band's logo by Stylorogue, laid out in a board of fonts. This hands-on approach to art and multi-media is also what made this exhibition feel like a time machine, highlighting less of the now digital era and more of the throwback to the raw genuineness of the band's artwork. One review from a fan who attended the viewing in Londonewcastle stated "it was lie stepping into a wave of nostalgia" caused by the photography and the sheer wide mix of content. He elaborates, "there were further insights; rejected images from shoots, scribbled notes on album covers and logo designs", which in his words, covered "the 21 years of the bands career". This exhibition encapsulated everything the fans could have possibly wanted or asked for, and opened the door for them to see the timeline of the band, from the very beginning process right up until their 21 year anniversary. With unedited, unfiltered insights into their growth as a band, and a VIP feeling with the unseen rejected images and personal notes. This not only put a well deserved spotlight onto the genius of these photographers and artists, but it accentuated the brilliance of Blur, and why their career has been and become such a legacy.
This exhibition ran from the 27th July to 14th August, 2012.
Blog by Libby Mitchell