By Ciara LaVelle
Some artists stage stuffy openings for their exhibitions, events where black-clad art experts somberly wander a gallery nodding and squinting silently at the walls.
Dave Muller is not one of those artists. He's here to rock 'n' roll. "Music is my world, in one way or another," the L.A.-based artist says. "I tend to think of music as the lens through which I see things."
That makes "Rock 'n' Old," Muller's music-heavy art exhibition opening at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood this Saturday, a peek inside the mind of the artist, DJ, and record collector. Through a series of works, including listening stations and a flow-chart mural that traces the rise of rock 'n' roll, "Rock 'n' Old" explores the influence of music -- both in the larger realm of popular culture as well as in the lives of individuals. Muller's unconventional portraits, paintings of album spines, aligned as if sitting on a shelf, are based on the top music picks of the portrait's subject.
"We were able to get Iggy Pop to give us his top-ten list of albums," says Jane Hart, curator. "Without giving it away, some of his choices were very unexpected."
Muller traces his love of music back to his childhood, when at age 9 he learned to play the trumpet. He continued playing through high school and along the way collected records. In college, he DJ'ed for his school's radio station and got into the punk scene. "I didn't really study art," Muller recalls. "I was a science kid... I went off to college and got a chemistry degree before I started taking art classes."
That science background, he and Hart agree, informs "Rock 'n' Old," especially its attempt to bring order to the chaotic world of music through lists and charts.
"I have an engineer's mind," Muller says. "I take things apart and put things together in different ways."
"Rock 'n' Old" is also a bit of a throwback, honoring the age of albums you could physically hold in your hands. But while Muller pays respect to older formats -- his studio, he tells New Times, is outfitted with a record player, cassette deck, and minidisc player -- he's squarely in the digital age. He recently staged an exhibit that included a playlist of 200,000 mp3s playing on shuffle.
"If you are everything you eat -- or you are everything you listen to -- if you want to do some sort of a portrait of yourself, one of those could be just listening to everything that's on [your collection] and let it go at random," Muller explains.
And while the trend toward digital music has its downsides, Muller says it's made music more accessible to the masses -- something he hopes his work can do for art. "Rock 'n' Old" isn't just an exhibition; it opens with a three-day weekend of events, including a music-minded meet and greet, a button-making workshop, and a DJ set by the artist, designed to engage viewers on a deeper level.
"I've always liked music because the level of education you needed to have an opinion was very low. You didn't need a PhD to decide you liked Public Enemy," he says. "Art always is a little tougher because people go, 'Oh, I just don't understand it.' There are some musics that are harder to understand, but it still comes down to a gut feeling, which a lot of people don't trust themselves to feel with art.
"What I'd like to do with my art is turn that around and say, 'Yes, you can.' "
"Rock 'n' Old" Opens 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 14, with an artists' reception and live DJ set by Dave Muller at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood.
On Saturday, November 15, there will be a meet and greet with the artist from 2 to 4 p.m. On Sunday, November 16, admission is free, and Muller will make free buttons for visitors from noon to 2 p.m., and the Florida Ukulele Network of Hollywood will perform.
The exhibition runs through January 18. Regular gallery admission is $7 for adults; $4 for students, seniors, and children ages 4 to 17; and free to members and children 3 and under. Opening reception, $10 for nonmembers. Call 954-921-3274, or visit artandculturecenter.org.