Legendary album art – Taken By Storm

Legendary album art – Taken By Storm

Storm - "Wish You Were Here" Pink Floyd - detail


A magnificent display of limited edition prints of the album covers created by Storm Thorgerson is now on show at the John Vavartos fashion boutique in West Hollywood. Depicting a powerful association between music and imagery, Taken by Storm is fine art exhibit of thirty-eight iconic mounted images by Thorgerson, representing the cream of over four decades of his work. Taken by Storm will be on show at the John Varvatos store through June 2011.

Review by Pauline Adamek

Back in the day, music releases came on 12-inch long-playing records (LPs) and were encased in large, square cardboard album covers with a design on the front (usually a photo of the performer) and some background info inside (liner notes). Later, many album covers opened up with gatefold sleeves, and this created a vast canvas for creativity.

In 1938, Columbia records hired Alex Steinweiss as its first art director. He is credited with inventing the concept of album covers and cover art, replacing plain covers used before. Other record companies followed his lead.

The cover became an important part of the culture of music during the sixties and seventies, both as a marketing tool and an expression of artistic intent. It was the artwork that made the album cover a desirable artifact in its own right.

Storm "Dark Side of the Moon - Redux" Pink Floyd

One artist who exemplifies this elevation of the musical artform into a visual one is British-born conceptual artist Storm Thorgerson. Thorgerson is a fascinating character from the world of art and music, possibly the most prolific visual artist in rock history.

Creator of some of the most memorable album covers of all time including Pink Floyd”™s Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin”™s Houses Of The Holy, Thorgerson was able to transform and transcend what is primarily an aural art into a feast for the eyes. A common theme to his largely surrealist style is an enigmatic scene in high-focus, employing dramatic lighting and sometimes trompe l”™oeil illusion effects.

The Rockers weigh in:

Billy Idol,Storm”™s always been really interesting. He”™s done some of the greatest rock album covers in the world. It”™s great to come down here and get to meet the man himself.”Â  So, he never designed a cover for you? “Nah, we were in a slightly different world”¦ It”™s just one of those things – it wouldn”™t have been out of the question. We probably didn”™t have enough money!” Idol laughs.

Glenn Hughes, from Deep Purple, “What can I say? I”™m a fellow Brit. I”™m from the same generation as Storm, and I”™m such a huge admirer of what has done – and continues to do today. Looking around the room and seeing the reminder of – genius is a word you don”™t often use, but I”™m going to use it openly here. His work is outstanding.” Has Storm ever designed a cover for you? “He has not, and I should kick myself in the bottom for that. Deep Purple were five egomaniac guys, but if I had my say, he would have been the number one choice.”

Visual artist, graphic designer and fan Shepard Fairey, “What I like about Storm”™s work is that there are a lot of different solutions to whatever the need is, and what he does is always very smart, layered, conceptual and incredibly well executed. I don”™t even think the kinds of budgets that were allocated to album art are available any more. Whenever I am feeling how hard it is to be a graphic designer and achieve anything artistic, I just look at his work. Considering that most of these albums were done before Photoshop existed, it”™s incredibly challenging to realize these photo-montages.”

Currently there is a documentary film about the career of Thorgerson and a fine art installation by him, as well as this exhibition of his prints.

Storm "Division Bell - Metal Heads" Pink Floyd

About the Artist:

Over the years Thorgerson has produced numerous rock videos and TV commercials, been a documentary filmmaker and compiled various books. In 1994 Storm directed six short films for Pink Floyd which were screened at concerts during their world tour

Some of the images in this exhibition were produced by Hipgnosis; a graphic design studio specializing in creative photography and album design formed in 1968 by Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell (Po).

Working mainly in the music business, Hipgnosis designed album covers for numerous rock ‘n’ roll bands including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, 10cc, Yes, Peter Gabriel, Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney, UFO, Peter Frampton and XTC, Syd Barrett and Styx, amongst others.

Thorgerson started a series of books on album cover art with Roger Dean called Album Cover Album, and with Hipgnosis wrote and designed two books, Walk Away Rene (1978) and The Goodbye Look (1982), about their own stuff.

Hipgnosis dissolved in 1983.

Thorgerson continues to design album covers, for bands such as Phish, Ian Dury, Cranberries, Pink Floyd, Catherine Wheel, Alan Parsons, Ween etc etc.

Storm - "Scratch" Peter Gabriel

Taken By Storm Thorgerson Fine Art Prints have three principle virtues:

(Information provided by the artist.)

1. The quality

Firstly, fine art prints are taken from original art or original scans and secondly are individually supervised in printing, whether silkscreen, adding color upon color, or gicl̩e via exhaustive profiling Рhard to be better.

2. Long lasting

Both silkscreen and gicl̩e, the digital equivalent, namely a fine art digital print made on ink-jet printers), are printed with archival inks on archival paper, provided one never leaves in direct sunlight or in the garden fine art prints will remain Ҭdistinct and color true for a lot longer than you will.

3. Limited edition value

Fine art prints are usually limited to 40/140 in number due to cost, thus their value financially tends to rise whilst their value personally remains constant. Control of number of these images is controlled and the market kept both balanced and guarded.

Plus, if one likes an image today one will usually like it later on. ItӪs more enjoyable to have the money on your wall in the form of a picture than in a bank where it looks Ҭnothing, and may even be at greater risk in these parlous times.

Storm - "Chrome" Catherine Wheel


Many of the images in this exhibition were produced by StormStudios, a small but loose collection of freelance designers and photographers, namely:

Peter Curzon – Graphic Designer Daniel Abbott – Illustrator Rupert Truman – Photographer Lee Baker – Computer Bill Thorgerson – Producer Jez Clarke – Props Badger – Retoucher Finlay Cowan – Illustrator Tony May – Photographer Jason Reddy – Retoucher Jon Crossland – Graphic Designer

….and of course Storm Thorgerson himself.


Taken By Storm

An exhibition of the artwork by Storm Thorgerson.

John Varvatos Boutique

8800 Melrose Avenue,

West Hollywood, CA 90069

On display until end of June, 2011

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

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