CBGB, New York, NY, 2006
Color coupler print
40 x 40 inches
© Rhona BItner

Sam Phillips Recording Service 2008
Color coupler print
40 x 40 inches
© Rhona BItner

 

 

STATIC NOISE: The Photographs of Rhona Bitner

January 27 – April 15, 2012

In 2006, CBGB’s, New York’s definitive rock music club, closed its doors on Manhattan’s Bowery. The closure sparked something in New York-based photographer Rhona Bitner, and she set out to capture the aftermath of ravaged rock’n’roll stages with her camera. Bitner explains:

“I began to think about music, primarily popular music, its wide reach and direct relationship to the human experience. I became intrigued by the notion of physical emptiness (co)existing with the memory of what had occurred there.”

The sites explored in STATIC NOISE—though some in ruins—are landmarks that retell the history of punk rock. Legendary venues are paid homage in cinematic scale and honored as platforms with lingering significance. Even estranged from notorious performances, the stages become atmospheric symbols for the clamor of concerts past. Bitner tracks the resonance of raucous nights without nostalgia; the artist explains: “A simple, straightforward photograph of a place, perhaps not immediately evident for its significance can introduce an echo of recognition or familiarity, reinforcing a relationship of place, memory and resonance and, perhaps, a faint whisper of sound.” In her photographs, the still, silent image tells its own story and lets visitors imagine, or even hear, what once was.

STATIC NOISE is Bitner’s first West Coast museum exhibition to present a glimpse into her new series, LISTEN. Exploring influential punk clubs and concert halls from the late 1970s and early 1980s, this exhibition captures the history of an era by focusing on its most seminal venues:
• New York City’s Electric Lady Studios where Patti Smith recorded her debut album Horses
• Detroit’s Grande Ballroom where The Stooges and Cramps were regulars
• San Antonio’s Randy’s Rodeo where an infamous Sex Pistols concert ended in a riot
• Los Angeles’ Whisky a Go-Go and Masque–lodestars in the early L.A. punk scene
Bitner treats empty stages as vessels of memory in her LISTEN series. Under her lens these innocuous sites are not just vestiges; they are vital pieces of the history of rebellious music that defined a generation.

This exhibition features twenty-eight photographs. It is accompanied by a brochure with an essay by musician Lenny Kaye, author, composer, and long-time collaborator and guitarist for the Patti Smith Group who spent many nights performing at CBGB.

Acknowledgement

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by a grant from Pasadena Arts Alliance. We also want to express our gratitude to other contributors including the College of the Arts, Instructionally Related Activities Fund, Bess Hodges Foundation, William Gillespie Foundation, the Constance W. Glenn Fund for Exhibition and Education Programs, and the Charles and Elizabeth Brooks Endowment. Additional thanks go to BFAS Blondeau Fine Art Services, Geneva, Switzerland and The ICON for their assitance in printing.

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