LA is having an art moment. This past week of activities from ALAC at the Barker Hangar n Santa Monica to the West Hollywood block party and Frieze at Paramount Pictures, proved that we are indeed a world-class art city. We also spied rare Warhol photos at Casa Perfect – the old Elvis estate in Beverly Hills – and were blown away by the iconic Annie Leibowitz exhibit still on view at Hauser & Wirth in the downtown arts district until April 14th.
This is an astounding exhibit with over 4,000 images taken from the early years during the late 60s to 80s, by the legendary Leibowitz. As an “ode to her work as a young photographer,” you will recognize some favorite Rolling Stone magazine covers, but there are also many never before seen black and white images of everyone from John Lennon to Loretta Lynn and Meryl Streep to Bruce Springsteen.
“This is a river of work and I did a liberal edit,” says Leibowitz. “I let it rip with anything at all that interested me. They all need each other like brothers and sisters.” Some of the early greats include Hunter Thompson, Jack Nicolson, Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Ray Charles, Patti Smith and span all the way across the culture board from Baryshnikov to David Cassidy and even the Mustang Ranch, but the most impressive wall of images was from the raw Rolling Stones tour in the 70s. “I would have rather been on tour with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez,” recalls Leibowitz, “but I learned a lot about power. I became ‘cool’ yet was overwhelmed by the drug taking. It took a long time for me to get off that tour,” she jokes. “I decided that I wasn’t going to give myself over again like that unless I really believed in it.”
The images progress to more polished A-list celebrities and behind-the-scenes candid shots with politicians from Jerry Brown to Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It’s those in-between moments that are so important,” she says, “sometimes they tell the real story and it’s not always the dead-on shot.” The exhibit moves on to reveal rare and painful images of Beach Boys Brian Wilson walking on the sand in a bathrobe with a surfboard tucked under his arm to a body-painted Keith Haring in Times Square and the artists most famous image of John Lennon naked cradling a fully clothed Yoko Ono which was taken the day he was shot. She recalled at the time, even through her grief, how supportive Ono was of her work as an artist, and ahead of her time.
Leibowitz reflected on her massive body of work – which took almost 3 years to sift through from a warehouse in the Bronx, and where it took her along the way, “I love my work and can stand outside myself and see the craziness and drive of working like this. You have to be obsessed. I’ve been so lucky and I’m going out with a camera in my hands.”