Rock n’ Roll exhibit showcases historic billboards in CSUF

In Art, Arts & Entertainment
Photo by Maegan Castro-Flores

Photojournalist Robert Landau’s one of a kind collection of iconic billboard photos from Sunset Boulevard is now being exhibited in Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Student Union. The exhibit, titled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip,” features a handful of “rock art” that lined the strip dating from the 1960s to mid-1980s.

Landau took most of the photos in the exhibit more than 30 years ago when he was just starting to get interested in photography. The photos were shot on 35mm color slide film.

“At the time I shot these, I was living on a street just above the Sunset Strip, and I just thought the hand painted billboards of the groups (like the Beatles) whose records I was listening to were cool,” said Landau.

The exhibit shows famous musicians such as Ted Nugent, the Bee Gees, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Landau’s favorite photo in his exhibit features David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of the world’s first folk rock supergroup, CSN. The photo shows the three band members harmonizing in the night sky over the passing traffic on the Sunset Strip and an old record store called Licorice Pizza.

You can see the expanse of city lights in the background, Landau said. When Landau first started shooting the photos, he was content to just document the billboards, but then started to try to capture their place in the urban environment.

“This shot was made on a tripod with a time exposure so you can see the car light streaking by and the simple black background of the billboard image seems to blend into the night sky,” Landau said.

Titan Student Union researched traveling exhibits and wanted to bring something to the students, staff and faculty that would create positive feedback.

“Robert Landau felt that the TSU Center Gallery showcased his photography in a way to encourage students and visitors (with) artistic, historical and cultural awareness,” said David DiBonaventura, TSU graphic services manager.

Carrie Madison, a Fullerton resident, read about the exhibit in the Orange County Register and was excited to take a walk down memory lane. Madison remembers these billboards from when she was in college.

“This is such a fun exhibit to see because it really takes me back. The Sunset Strip back then was nothing like it is now. This is art,” said Madison.

This was a period of time that music was more than just for entertainment, said Landau.  He continued that music was a way of life, and it went beyond just lyrics. Music was an art and driving force of the generation.

“I loved a lot of the music, but being more visually oriented I was particularly influenced by great album cover art which was then translated onto the Sunset Strip billboards,” said Landau.

Landau is publishing a book this fall titled, Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip. This art book will have color reproductions of his photos and give historical and sociological context to why they existed. Landau spoke with art directors, photographers, recording artists and record company executives to get first hand recollections of what went into their creation.

The exhibit will be on display till April 27. To get more information of Robert Landau’s book and collection please visit RobertLandau.com.

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