It makes perfect sense that a distillery known for aging its brandy barrels with nonstop rock ‘n’ roll would also showcase an eclectic mix of rock photography in its gallery as part of the Louisville Photo Biennial. Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery is showcasing “The Art of Rock: Transcending Sound” in its second floor gallery starting Friday.
Curated by photographer, educator and music lover Mary Yates, the exhibit features pictures from renowned rock photographer Baron Wolman, as well as pieces by local artists like Tim Furnish, Virgil Henley, Willie MacLean, Mickie Winters, Edward Neary, Audrey Harrod and Chris Higdon. There’s also a special grid-based Instagram piece featuring images from bands Calexico, My Morning Jacket, Houndmouth and many others.
An opening reception is planned for Friday, Sept. 25, from 9 p.m.-midnight, so if you’ve never been to the Butchertown distillery, now would be a good time to check it out. Insider talked with curator Yates to find out what her inspiration was for the exhibit, and how C&K was able to snag some of Wolman’s iconic photos.
Yates says gallery owner and photography collector Paul Paletti first approached Copper & Kings to see if they wanted to participate in the Photo Biennial, and once they agreed, they brought her on board because of her background that mixed photography, education and music. Hannah Verbeuren, a former student of Yates, had just gotten a photo published in Rolling Stone, and that — along with the distillery’s penchant for rock ‘n’ roll in their brandy-making process — led her to the idea for the show.
“She (Verbeuren) was excited about her achievement, and I was intrigued about presenting this type of work as a representation of documenting the creative spirit,” she explains. “This seemed like a natural fit for the gallery at Copper & Kings because music plays such a big role in their sonic aging process, so I pitched the idea and they loved it.”
As Yates made a list of which artists to include, she coincidentally met with two Butchertown art collectors who recently had visited Wolman and purchased several of the rock photographer’s images. They agreed to share their photos in the exhibit, and Yates was thrilled.
“Wolman is one of the people who defined music photography of that era, so he was a great addition to the show and provided a pivotal group of work to build the exhibition around,” she says.
No matter what level of experience the photographer is at, Yates says all the artists in the show approach music photography from a different perspective using a broad range of styles.
“In Mickie Winter’s image of Ben Sollee playing his cello, there is an elegance and formality, while Chris Higdon shows us two members of Elliott on tour stuck in a traffic jam in Texas on top of a van waiting out the delay,” explains Yates. “The contrast of these two images really shows the variety of ways we can explore the world of the musician from formal portrait to the experience of the very unglamorous side of touring.”
Yates hopes people notice the complexity of the artistic personality when viewing the exhibit. She believes having multiple viewpoints and approaches to documenting musicians is what’s most interesting — from the frontman lost in performance to the audience soaking it all in. And, perhaps, we can all learn from the musically inclined men and women.
“Musicians are an interesting group and really support each other, which I think is a good lesson for other artistic mediums where there is a more competitive nature,” says Yates. “I think the collaborative nature of music as an art form translates to the photographer’s lens and invites the viewer to participate in this experience.”
While Yates won’t pick a favorite, she’s partial to Verbeuren’s work because she’s gotten to see her develop from student to professional: “She has an energetic style and a sensitivity to the theatrical nature of the musician, whether documenting live events or in portraiture.”
“The Art of Rock: Transcending Sound” runs Sept. 26-Nov. 27 at Copper & Kings, 1121 E. Washington St. Wolman’s photos will be up through Nov. 6.