Exhibit pays tribute to iconic album images
Next week, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum will shine a light on a often neglected art form: the album cover.
The Rock ‘n’ Soul’s new exhibit, “The Fine Art of Rock,” features original paintings, pen-and-inks and drawings of some of the most familiar and iconic album covers of all time: from Aerosmith to Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane to the Turtles.
The exhibit — presented by Radian Partners with Fedex — is curated by Ernie Cefalu. The Grammy-nominated Cefalu has enjoyed a 40-plus-year career as a designer. For almost 15 years, through the ‘70s and ‘80s, he served as creative director for the noted album design firm Pacific Eye & Ear — personally creating about 189 covers during those years and supervising hundreds more.
In addition, the Californiabred Cefalu helped create iconic logos and work on campaigns for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the Rolling Stones, among others.
At Pacific Eye & Ear, Cefalu worked with a roster of talented artists whose work is featured in the exhibit, including Bill Garland, Joe Patagno and Drew Struzan. “Drew Struzan went on to do all the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ posters,” says Cefalu. “He’s now the most collected illustrator in the world.”
Cefalu is highlighting the work of Struzan and others as part of a 46-piece collection that will be on display at the Rock ‘n’ Soul through Nov. 20. The original pieces include covers for the Bee Gees, Black Oak Arkansas, Canned Heat, Alice Cooper, Earth, Wind & Fire, Grand Funk Railroad, Iron Butterfly and more. On Thursday, Cefalu be in Memphis for a 6 p.m. lecture and Q&A session at the Rock ‘n’ Soul (the event is free and open to the general public).
For Cefalu, putting together the biggest collection of original album art in the world came about almost by accident.
“I’m a pack rat, and I never throw anything away,” Cefalu said of how “The Fine Art of Rock” initially came about. “I had Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ painting, the original oil painting that Drew Struzan did, hanging in my place. And this friend of mine was over, and he said to me, ‘How many of those pieces do you have?’ I said, ‘I don’t know — maybe 30, or 40.’”
The exchange got Cefalu thinking and, more important, looking through his house and storage facilities. “It was like an Easter egg hunt,” he recalls. “I searched everywhere, and when I gathered everything together, I ended up with about 350 pieces. I thought I had a few things; I didn’t realize I had an entire collection.”
Looking back on the work that he and the others had done, Cefalu was struck by just how good the craft was and how famous some of the imagery would become.
“At the time, when we were