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“Axis: Bold As Love,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967

Olivet College presents the exhibition “Album Cover Art: A Window On World Cultures and Art History,” curated by Douglas P. Sjoquist. The exhibit will be open Nov. 1 – 29 with an artist’s reception Nov. 2, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. The display and reception will be held at the Kresge Foundation Art Gallery, located in the Riethmiller Blackman Art Building at Olivet College. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

The exhibit will consist of nearly 100 framed album covers, more than 50 framed information pieces and five large framed posters of artwork. The exhibit has three distinctive sections. Section one, The Golden Age of Album Cover Art, focuses on artwork from 1967 to 1983 created with traditional mediums such as oil on canvas, watercolor and woodcuts. Section two, A Window on World Cultures, explores Asian, African, European and American cultural themes on album covers. Section three, A Window on Art History, investigates the appearance of artwork by famous artists such as Dali, Curry, Klarwein, Magritte, Gauguin and Escher, on album covers during the golden age.

Curator Douglas P. Sjoquist remembers his passion for music stemming early into his youth, even driving him to join various rock bands as a drummer beginning in the ninth grade. In addition, this is when Sjoquist’s collection of albums began to grow, and by 1967, he noticed the album covers were morphing into colorful and creative works of art that he enjoyed as much as the music.

In 1969, Sjoquist was inspired to begin his official collection album cover art following the release of “In the Court of the Crimson King,” and by the 1980s, he had the financial means to turn his hobby into a large part of his life. Further driven to preserve these incredible works as record albums gave way to the more modern compact disc, Sjoquist picked up albums at record stores and garage sales simply for their cover art.

Soon, Sjoquist’s album collection became part of his professional identity, even producing a 34-minute documentary on the subject in 1998 and often using it in his teachings as a college professor. Sjoquist utilized album cover art in the classroom to introduce students to the works of famous artists, initiate discussions about concepts related to world religions and world civilizations, or illustrate the relationship between art history and popular culture. During this time, he also began presenting on album cover artwork at conferences around the nation such as the 1996 Popular Culture Association Conference, the 1997 Midwest Popular Culture Conference, and the 2001 National Association for Humanities Education Conference.

After retiring from teaching in 2015, Sjoquist turned his focus to assembling an exhibit of his collection. Thoroughly setting a goal for the exhibit, he selected album covers that de-emphasized the use of photography and instead celebrated artwork. The exhibit features album cover artwork that was done by artists who used traditional art mediums like oil on canvas, watercolor, or even woodcuts and newer mediums like acrylic or airbrushing.

“My desire to do an exhibit on album cover artwork was intensified in the early 21st-century when we were introduced to music services such as iTunes,” Sjoquist said. “The technological advances in the storage and reproduction of music available to us now means it is possible to download our favorite music without seeing any art. Personally, I think we have lost a remarkable venue for artistic expression and aesthetic enjoyment. I’m convinced that anyone interested in art history, world civilizations, world religions, or pop culture would find this exhibit aesthetically pleasing and educational. I hope this exhibit demonstrates the connections between these areas in the field of the humanities and that the artwork appeals to a wide range of emotions in viewers from nostalgia to a new respect for the globally-minded and talented artists who created this body of artwork.”

For more information about the exhibit, contact Gary Wertheimer, professor of art, at 269.749.7627 or gbwertheimer@olivetcollege.edu.

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