Long before the digital age — way before email, Skype and phones that talked back to you — there was the art of creating larger than life advertising. Literally. Enter, Madison Avenue via the Sunset Strip through rolled down windows with drivers gawking at one of a kind hand-painted megaliths. The long horizontal wooden canvases turned the celebrated long stretch of road into a veritable drive-thru art gallery.
Often depicting album cover art, the rock and roll billboards brought an edgy and fresh energy to the L.A. urban landscape. Rockstars from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Cher and David Bowie were personified and super-sized on 14 x 48 foot panels. Before being white-washed, dismantled, or given a new life life in paint, photographer Robert Landau (still in his teens) was there to document these ephemeral pop art masterpieces. In his upcoming book entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards on the Sunset Strip”, Landau examines the important history of billboards and their reflection of trends in art, advertising, and society.
The Strip’s rock billboards flourished right up until MTV supplanted them in the early 1980s. The importance placed on producing videos for airplay on the fledgling network sucked most of the promotion resources right out of recording artists’ budgets. Today the marketing focus is not on gargantuan, hand-crafted imagery but rather file card-size vignettes that dance and sing in YouTube videos.
To view some of Landau’s iconic photographs from this nostalgic era, visit the Center Gallery at the Titan Student Union of Cal State Fullerton. The exhibit will run until April 27 and the book will see its release later this Fall through Angel City Press.
For more information regarding this exhibit and the TSU Arts & Exhibit Program visit asi.fullerton.edu, or contact David DiBonaventura at 657.278.7716.
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