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Pollard's postmodern pastiche


Mish and mash: Robert Pollard - PHOTO BY EMILY WATSON
  • Photo by Emily Watson
  • Mish and mash: Robert Pollard

We knew former Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard was prolific, we just didn't know how far it extended. Beyond his scorecard-necessitating roster of projects producing a half dozen albums a year, Pollard is now receiving attention as a visual artist.

In August, Pollard will release a coffee-table book of his collages—which graced the covers of many GBV albums—titled Town of Mirrors, on Seattle's Fantagraphics Books. Merge Records, which has released four Pollard records, will host an exhibit of Pollard's work in its Durham headquarters to celebrate the book's release. The Aug. 15 event is part of Durham's monthly arts and culture crawl, Third Friday.

Pollard began making collages while in junior high, when he would create album covers on 12-by-12-inch pieces of cardboard with photos he'd cut from magazines. "I wanted to play in a band, but I couldn't play and didn't know anyone else who could play, so it was this fantasy world of 'I can still be in the band by making album covers,'" Pollard explains from his Dayton, Ohio, home. "When GBV got signed and people started taking notice, I threw them all away because I was afraid I would be revealed as some sort of maniac. I had 100 to 150 of them."

But he kept making more. Much like with his music, Pollard values the immediacy of collage. He'll finish a number of them in a single day, employing the same aesthetic as he does in songwriting.

"Some people are perfectionists. I'm not. I'm, 'All right, here it is. Do I like it? Yeah, let's go on to the next thing,'" he says. "That's why I like collage art, because you put it together really fast, you move things around, and there it is."

The collages often seem to comment on the naïve optimism of the '50s and early '60s, as witnessed through the marketing images. "I like to work with older images [because] for the most part, they're in Technicolor," Pollard says.

There are many interesting juxtapositions in his collection, such as the large gun barrel superimposed over two women in the backseat of a car, in "You Were Saying." Alongside the pictures are song lyrics, mish-mashed like the images to form new meanings. Pollard says he oriented the images and lyrics thematically to create "continuity and flow" across the book.

Meanwhile, he continues to record, with collage only an occasional diversion. Pollard just released the solo album Robert Pollard is Off to Business, finished a new Circus Devils album for next year, and is working on material with his new band, Boston Spaceships, featuring Portlanders Chris Slusarenko (Sprinkler) and John Moen (The Decemberists). Tentatively titled Brown Submarine, it's due in September and will be followed with a tour, though Pollard confirmed that—unable to secure a Cat's Cradle date—they'll be skipping Chapel Hill.

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