If you attended the David Bowie Is exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, you already know that curator, Michael Darling, and his talented team are passionate about pop culture, and the MCA’s POP ART DESIGN show clearly echoes that fact. This new exhibit, which will run through May 27, 2016, not only features Andy Warhol’s silk-screened Marilyn Monroe and Campbell soup can label portraits, but also illustrates how furniture designers, graphic artists and architects “embraced the banality of everyday objects, the vivid colors of advertising, and standardized fabrication at the heart of mass consumer products in the creation of their work.”
The1960s and 1970s was a time in which musicians and artists drew inspiration from one another and frequently collaborated. Hypnotic Op Art, for example, was strongly associated with psychedelic music: the boldly-colored, oversized candy sculptures by Claes Oldenburg more than hinted at America’s preoccupation with commercialism, which many of the era’s most popular bands, rallied against.
In attendance during preview day was Steve Krakow, an esteemed Chicago author, music historian and international DJ. For a decade, he has designed cartoons and penned biographies about local and legendary musicians for the Chicago Reader and has recently published a new book. After spinning a succession of great tunes by Donovan, The Kinks, The Doors and The Small Faces, etc., he responded to some questions about his background and overall contributions to the Chicago literature and music scene.
Examiner: How would you describe your experience as a DJ, writer and musician?
SK: I’ve DJ’ed all over the world, from Japan to London to LA and New York and I DJ all “vintage” 45s, mostly in bars, festivals and clubs. I specialize in 60s-70s “psychedelic” but I also spin hard rock, folk, funk, soul, new wave and bubblegum.
I have written and drawn the “Secret History of Chicago Music” column/strip in the Chicago Reader for the last decade, which resulted in a MCA exhibit and now a hardcover book collection (Curbside Splendor Publishing). I’ve also written and drawn the psychedelic music magazine “Galactic Zoo Dossier” for 20 years (Drag City Label) and freelanced for magazines and books.
Examiner: What is your band history?
SK: For about 20 years, I’ve been playing in avant/psychrock bands that have toured the world and recorded numerous LPs: Plastic Crimewave Sound, Moonrises, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Werewheels, etc.
Examiner: The tunes you played strongly correlated with the era in which the displayed art installations, furniture and prints were conceptualized. How did you come up with the list?
SK: I worked with folks at the MCA, who mainly wanted recognizable “swinging 60s” hits to evoke the era and they suggested some artists, but I tried ultimately to pick hits that I felt were the most colorful and even “pop art” by both larger artists and bands that only had a hit or two, like The Small Faces, Iron Butterfly and Classics IV.
Examiner: The exhibit includes art by Andy Warhol, Cristo and Ed Paschke. Would you hang any of this work in your living room?
SK: I actually went to school for painting, but my main love has always been comics–I’ve written and drawn a few, so pop art has always been near and dear to my heart. I always insisted on painting very flat with pop culture references and bright colors right out of the tube, so Warhol has always been a large figure in my life. He worked with my favorite band of all time, the Velvet Underground (which I insisted I play at the MCA) and produced underground films like “Trash”, which made him a hero, so, yes, a few Warhol reproductions are indeed in my pad.
Examiner: Thank you, Steve.
Here is a link to Steve Krakow’s (AKA Plastic Crimewave) new book: