Album covers stand alone

By Chris Krapek and Troy Doetch

DeKALB | The Nirvana baby, the Beatles walking across Abbey Road, Andrew W.K.’s bloody nose. — some album covers are as iconic and evocative as the music itself.

Sheet Music and Record Albums: Graphics of Their Time is a new exhibition in the NIU Art Museum. The exhibit “examines facets of the interrelationship of visual art and sound in a medium to which nearly everyone can relate,” according to an NIU news release.

Housed in glass cases in the hallway of Altgeld Hall is a collection of vinyl, CDs, sheet music and more. There’s Pavement, Grizzly Bear, the Ramones, Minor Threat, Radiohead, Styx, the Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong, amongst others.

Peter Olson, assistant director of the NIU Art Museum, accumulated most of the records from people around town and from his own personal collection.

“They’re not totally rare, but they’re museum quality images,” he said. “They’re not the kind of thing everybody’s got in their house, but everybody’s got records. Many people that don’t care that much about it have got some kind of record somewhere. They’ve got this mini-art collection without knowing it. I thought this was a great opportunity not only to talk about music and art in different ways, but to talk about different levels of the way images relate to us and how we relate to images.”

For Olson, the exhibition is not solely about the art, but the experiences he used to have with vinyl.

“I started thinking about the show, and I got really nostalgic,” he said. “I really missed that tactile quality, that whole ritual of taking a record out of its sleeve and putting it on and that focused attention. If you have your computer running in the background, it could just go forever. You kind of lose that connection to the music that you have with a record. It’s demanding a little more attention from you.”

The NIU Art Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Olson will curate and D.J. Listen To The Music That Inspired The Graphics at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 19.

DeKalb Scene Staff Writer Troy Doetch contributed to this article.