Bob Gruen (born 1945) is one of the most well-known and respected photographers in Rock ‘n Roll. Over his 40-year career as a music photographer Gruen has captured some of the most iconic figures in music history and today his work is known around the world.
Gruen’s ability to not just be in the right place at the right time, but to befriend music’s most beloved delinquents, earned him a permanent backstage pass and spot on the tour bus to hang with the likes of Bob Dylan, Blondie, The Ramones, Suicide, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, Ike and Tina Turner, Green Day… the list honestly goes on and on.
“Rock and roll is about the freedom to express yourself loudly,” Gruen said, when asked to shed some light on his experiences. “There’s a feeling of anarchy when you’re in the middle of a crowd of cheering fans, with all the energy focused on the artists on the stage. It’s important for me to capture that in my photos.”
Bob participated in creating the iconic coffee book all about Yoko Ono – See Hear Yoko. Gruen, who served as personal photographer to Lennon and Ono during their years in New York City, collaborated with his friend, Austin’s own rock radio mainstay Jody Denberg, who edited twenty-five years of interviews with Yoko for the book’s text.
In 2014 Gruen teamed up with master printer, Gary Lichtenstein, to create a suite of silkscreen print editions. Bob and Gary poured over photos for days and ultimately decided that neither wanted to be constrained by the idea of a single project.
The first venture resulted in five silkscreen print editions based on iconic photographs of Debbie Harry, John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Produced as editions of fifty, the creative choices of the Artist and the Master Printer are immediately evident. It is clear that the collaborators did not seek to reproduce the photographs — rather, the imagery has been vividly reinterpreted through silkscreen.
The most recent venture, smaller in size and scale, resulted in two silkscreen print editions of twenty-five. This time, two of Bob’s favorite, black & white photographs were chosen – one of Debbie Harry at Max’s Kansas City and one of Tina Turner at the Honka Monka Club. Produced with multiple layers of black and white silkscreen ink and surfaced with a layer of diamond dust, the silkscreen canvases showcase their beautiful subjects brilliantly.
If spirit can be captured, the evidence is here… and it is entirely attributable to the unique partnership between two artists fascinated by the idea of recreating stories.