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Lou Reed: An Exhibition

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 8, 2022 21:53

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Rock 'n roll legend Lou Reed is the subject of an interesting exhibition in Manhattan

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is currently showing an exhibition about the life and work of the late Lou Reed. Lou Reed was involved in rock, pop, and experimental music from his teen years through his death at age 71. This exhibition, which highlights not only his various musical stages but also his ties to New York City and State, is a must-see (and must-hear) for fans of his solo work and also that of the Velvet Underground.

It's fitting that the Public Library is staging this show, but it's also a mild chuckle that it's held within the Lincoln Center performing arts campus. Most people think of Lincoln Center as being an incubator of "high culture," not necessarily rock 'n roll, which is incorrect. Still, it might have made more sense at the public library in the East Village, perhaps. Lincoln Center is obviously bigger and easily accessed via train and bus.

The exhibition has two sections. The main one displays a wide variety of Reed's personal artifacts from all phases of his life. We get to see his high school yearbook (he attended school in Long Island), his Syracuse University diploma, 45s from his personal collection, and lots of music, handwritten lyrics, photos of Reed with many musicians, guitars, and so on. There are unusual pieces too, such as his tai chi swords, his Mermaid Parade banner (along with that of Laurie Anderson, his musician wife who survived him). 

The other section, on a lower floor, provides a full stereo listening room experience of some of his work. These are more experimental works, not his famous songs such as "Walk on the Wild Side." I had the room to myself when I went, and as I sat on a black cushioned settee, I closed my eyes and absorbed the nuanced music.

There is also a curious recreation of the studio of Hal Wilner, a revered music producer who worked with many musicians, including Reed. 

My favorite section of the exhibition was concentrated on the Velvet Underground,    Reed's band from the mid-late 1960s. They were associated with Andy Warhol and had a brash, primitive sound which eventually evolved into a more mainstream rock sound, as evidenced by songs such as "Sweet Jane". Although they sold few records originally, they have since become a highly influential band. The members had reunion shows in the early 1990s, and I wish I had seen them. Thus, watching video footage and hearing their reunion shows was quite moving to me. 

Reed was often provocative, and outspoken, but also very dedicated to his music. I saw him in concert once in Manhattan, when he was promoting his 1989 album, New York. He recorded many albums, wrote poetry and essays, and was part of theater and performance productions. He was not the typical rocker. This exhibition will thrill his fans and is also a worthy educational experience. Visit Lincoln Center for this, as well as ballet and opera. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 8, 2022 21:53

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Source: NYT

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