Michael Pellew’s never-ending love affair with pop music and rock-and-roll returns to Western Exhibitions with over 200 drawings of album covers from his favorite artists presented as cassette tape inserts, free-standing paintings of rock stars, and drawings of Pellew interviewing stars about cassette tapes and classic rock.
The show, Pellew’s second solo at Western Exhibitions, opens on Friday, April 29 with a public reception from 5 to 8 pm, and runs through June 18, 2022. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm.
When asked about his current fixation on cassette tapes, Michael Pellew answered, “this is how I listened to music as a kid.” This spawned hundreds of drawings replicating album covers in cassette format, 8 by 4 inches, folded to fit into clear plastic cases. These album covers reflect Pellew’s musical catholic tastes: a LOT of heavy metal, hair metal, classic rock, post-punk, goth, new wave, grunge and pop artists abound. Pellew provides a thesis statement on the inside cover for a speculative compilation album titled METAL MASSACRE: “Welcome to Metal Massacre, you’re all gonna see different album cover designs that I made fresh out of google and goddamit you will be ready for the goods.”
Mingling throughout the gallery are near-life-sized cut-outs –acrylic paintings on mdf – of five of Pellew’s favorite musicians: a wider-than-wider David Byrne from the “Stop Making Sense” era, Michael Jackson in a tuxedo, Alice Cooper with his signature spooky eye make-up, and a bouffanted-up-to-there Amy Winehouse. Prince and Taylor Swift join the party as wall paintings.
In five pencil and marker drawings done in his classic cartoon-figures-with-word-bubbles style, Pellew presents himself interviewing an array of pop music personalities including Bruce Springsteen, Britney Spears and Robert Plant, among others, asking them about their tours, favorite cassette tapes and influences. When he asks Taylor Swift if she is classic rock, she replies “My first three albums are Classic Rock. In 2008, I was opening for Styx, Genesis and Boston.” In the drawing, Thrash Metal Legend Interviews, Pellew sits down with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who is peppered with “What bands are you avoiding right now?”
Comical vignettes interrupt the interviews with Pellew’s pop culture heroes: Diana Ross makes repeated appearances throughout, furious about her dead cat while Paris Hilton and Gwyneth Paltrow attempt to console her. Cameron Diaz, from her mansion in Canarsie, shares that she hates hair metal. Kim Kardashian plays Slayer on a boombox. Pellew’s friends stop by to do their laundry. Parental advisory stickers pop up everywhere as do drawings of demo tapes by dozens of artists, even Stephan Jenkins from Third Eye Blind.
Michael Pellew Jr, (b. 1979, Brooklyn) is a founding member of LAND Gallery and Studio, a nonprofit program in Brooklyn that works with adult artists with developmental disabilities. As a young child, Pellew began making drawings of buses and trains, and continued to hone his artistic skills by copying cartoon characters from the 1980s. Self-proclaimed the “Godfather of Art,” he is a prolific illustrator and humorist, constantly working on his line of greeting cards, album covers, narrative art books, wooden sculptures and large drawings. Since 2005 Michael Pellew has been included in exhibitions at Western Exhibitions in Chicago, MADmusée in Belgium, and in New York at MOMA’s Cullman Education Building, The Gallery at Ace Hotel, Christian Berst Art Brut Gallery, and the Outsider Art Fair. His works have been acquired by collectors, actors, musicians and fellow artists, including Spike Lee and Mos Def. Pellew has been featured in the Huffington Post, VICE Magazine, Disparate Minds, Art News, W Magazine and PAPER magazine, who dubbed him their “favorite artist.”