The lights go down, everyone screams. We don’t see anything yet but we know what’s coming. The anticipation is almost too much. The smoke pours out onto the stage; the lights from below light everything up like something from out of this world. They walk out, the music starts, and they are almost in reach but always above you when you are in the front row. They begin to move wildly, their hair long, like Jesus, like the messiah, like gods. It’s amazing. It’s a religion. It’s Rock.
I remember being 15 years old and going to see the Ramones. I worshipped the Ramones. I had every album, I knew every word of every song, I had dreamed of the day when I would be front row. Looking up at my gods. It was all I had hoped for. When I went to the Vatican, I felt the same way. I know, I know it’s the dorky vow of an art history lover. I couldn’t believe I was there. I couldn’t believe I was standing looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I wanted to cheer, and yell, “YEAH! I made it! I’m here! This is awesome!” but you’re not allowed to talk so it wasn’t as much fun as the Ramones.
I recently had an exciting experience at the opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo at the last Saturday night. The lights came on, everyone piled in, the music began to play, and the work was awesome. I wanted to yell, “YEAH! JOE! YEAH!”, and I am sure that no one would have minded, but I held it in. Even though it was the Gallery@ Green Street, it was still a gallery and even here there are some social expectations. Wardwell’s works are beautifully executed paintings reminiscent of classical Baroque works. The figures of angels and heavenly hosts (in the traditional sense) have been replaced by a veritable who’s who of heavy metal and rock’n roll history. There are women, there are men, and there is hair, instruments, tattoos and flames. It is like the Garden of Rock’N Roll delights. I think Hieronymus Bosch would have appreciated it. Sex, drugs, Rock n Roll, and great painting. I never thought that would be the new phrase. Also included in the exhibit are paintings in the shape of guitars. I had to suppress the urge to pick one up and play “Crazy Train.”
As I get older going to see a live band has turned into thoughts of, “This ticket was really expensive, and its really loud in here, god I wish this sweaty guy would move over, anyone got hand sanitizer?” I now look back on my Sistine chapel experience and think, “Thank god I got there before they restored it, it’s actually kind of ugly.” The opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo was a fun experience. I actively engaged in a game of find Brian Johnson, or Ozzy Osborne. I spent some time trying to figure out what famous composition they might have been based on and I watched other gallery goers as they looked on with fascination, confusion and excitement.
We all have some idea how to react to our surroundings. We don’t act the same at a heavy metal concert as we do at the MFA. But the feeling of being “star struck” is almost the same no matter what the situation. Many of today’s “Art Stars” have an almost “Rock Star” quality to them. I once met one of my favorite artists and I felt that surge of panic, “What do I say, oh my god there they are, I love their work” and the experience was not like seeing the Ramones. It was more like seeing Kenny G. The mystique fades so often when you meet the star in person. I expected more interesting conversation out of a meeting with Nan Goldin and I got more out of talking to Guy from Fugazi. The differences between the gods of the art world and those in the music industry are minimal. The only real difference is their medium.
Wardwell’s paintings has invaded the art worlds exclusive society with AC/DC and it’s awesome! He has merged the two worlds of the rock stars and the art stars into pieces that entertain me, intrigue me and most of all they challenge me. Pretty soon to be a real “Art Star” you will have to have been immortalized in a Joe Wardwell. Or take up the drums. While I feel you may have missed out on some of the rush by not having been to the opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo I highly suggest paying the $1.25 to take the subway out to the Gallery@Green Street, you may want to get out your lighter and hold it up high, or just bust out into some good old fashioned air guitar. Either way there is something for everyone to enjoy. Joe Wardwell, you rock!