A Note From Chris Jordan; arts and entertainment writer for the Asbury Park Press:
What does art and music have to do with each other?
Plenty. The relationship goes back, oh, a millennium or two. That’s why, when poet John Keats picked up an ancient urn, he found illustrations of:
“What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on." The image of musical performance in Greece now lives on forever, thanks to Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.’’ And thanks to the urn itself.
How about art and rock ’n’ roll? John, Paul, George and Ringo became what we know today as The Beatles after they fell in with German artists Klaus Voormann, Astrid Kirchherr and Jürgen Vollmer. The Germans gave the Liverpudlian lads their famous Beatles haircuts and more. Voormann, Kirchherr and Vollmer helped the Beatles transition from Eddie Cochran look-alikes to a more Mod, or Beat, style.
A few years later, the Velvet Underground were the house band for Andy Warhol's Factory studio in New York City and they would play art happenings called Plastic Inevitable events. The union between the Velvets and Warhol crystalized the connection between rock ’n’ roll and art, and the music of the group would influence later genres, such as punk and alternative rock.
Speaking of punk, the music was very much connected to a visual arts movement, featuring jarring geometric shapes, use of found images and ransom-note style text. Both punk's visual and musical forms have since become mainstream.
Around the same time as punk began in the late ’70s, the visual arts component of hip-hop, graffiti art, started to draw attention, much of it negative. New York City went to war against the “taggers’’ of subway cars. It’s ironic now that some of the biggest names of late 20th century and early 21st century art, Banksy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat are, or were, graffiti artists.
Now, what’s going on in Asbury Park? It’s a seaside city on a slow recovery, known for producing a wide range of musical talent over the last 100 years or so, from Arthur Pryor to Lenny Welch to Bruce Springsteen. The city has long had an architectural flair -- Convention Hall on the boardwalk was built in the Beaux Arts style of the ’20s -- and in the past 10 years or so, a vibrant visual arts community has risen. There are about a dozen art galleries in town and the art styles of local artists include graffiti, graphics, prints and pop culture curios, full of whimsy, darkness, light and a little snarl, too.
Patrick Schiavino, an artist, realtor and owner of Art 629 Gallery on Cookman Avenue, created the Asbury Underground art crawl in 2014. It’s a day local musicians -- some of whom have performed on stages round the world -- play in the city’s arts galleries. It’s a merging of art and music, and it’s popular. More than 2,000 come out on the days of Underground.
What’s exciting is this union of art and music in Asbury Park has only begun. The path it can take has limitless potential as the art informs the music and the music informs the art.
Play on, ye loud pipes.