I knew this wasn’t your average ho-hum art gallery when I noticed it was nestled between Sa-Tén and Blue Genie. If you’re a lover of music, nirvana is waiting.
Gallery That Rocks
A collection of rock stars silently await your arrival: The Clash, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, The Cure, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello, the Grateful Dead, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Madonna, among others, are on display at Modern Rocks Gallery.
The list of musical legends on exhibit competes with Gene Simmons’ tongue–it’s lengthy! But what makes this sanctuary of rock truly unique are the stories behind the images as told by the photographers, beginning with the gallery’s owner.
Owner Who Rocks
Steven Walker knows a few things about being a rock star, having toured as a guitarist with the 80’s English rock band, Modern English. Even if you don’t remember Rubik’s Cubes, rotary phones and candy cigarettes, you’ve most likely found yourself humming along while listening to one of Modern English’s biggest hits, “Melt with You.”
Like many musicians, Steven picked up a hobby in between gigs, photography. Modern Rocks Gallery combines his love of music, and his appreciation for still images and the photographers who snap them.
Meeting in his east Austin gallery, I was struck by Steven’s ease. His untucked grey Levi button down shirt, slate colored Converses and black rimmed glasses complemented the images that surrounded us. Steven and his gallery, like the photo I’d come to see of Johnny and June, seamlessly blend together.
A few pops of color caught my eye: toss pillows in red, white and blue synonymous with his country of origin, England. Across the room, another stroke of color beckoned for my attention: a pair of piercing blue eyes submerged in a pool of ice blue water…Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
The framed subjects that cling to the walls are an extension of the owner. The photographs and Steven are remnants of their times, sharing experiences that for most were out of reach–until now.
Images That Rock
My personal favorite image at Modern Rocks Gallery was of Johnny Cash and June Carter. A towering figure stands behind a petite woman wearing two inch wedges. His masculine arms are clasped securely around her waist. The woman has a grip on his forearm; like tree branches they’re entwined in their embrace. His head gently rests on hers, his face and body exude contentment, while her natural ease and smile show a couple comfortable in their relationship, and in love.
The photographer, Don Hunstein, who captured the moment between Johnny and June in 1962, asked Johnny his definition of paradise. His response: “This morning with her (June), having coffee.” Hunstein’s first-hand account provides viewers with a backstory to the moment he captured, which makes the image that much more powerful.
I struggle to adequately articulate the relevance of this gallery. Photography has always been a form of storytelling, but Steven has made the experience intimate. He not only provides a space that could easily pass as someone’s living room, but also includes accounts of conversations and events that transpired during the course of capturing these icons.
Visiting Modern Rocks
Want to know the thoughts behind Kurt Cobain’s glacial blue eyes during the Nevermind photo shoot? Want to know why Amy Winehouse is captured huddled against a wall and smiling in an image taken by Jill Furmanovsky? Want to see snapshots of U2 at a time when a solid crowd consisted of 50 people and Bono lacked the polished look that often accompanies fame? You’ll be surprised to learn what concerned Public Enemy most after arriving in London for their debut European tour in 1987. There’s also a photograph of a certain rock star’s “bum,” which Stephen Wright captured with a pocket full of wilting gladioli. But why? The answers and images lie within Modern Rocks Gallery.
These limited signed editions by famous finger clicking photographers can be purchased at Modern Rocks Gallery. This is your opportunity to own a piece of rock history. And by entering Steven Walker’s gallery, you’ve somehow entered what had previously been an unobtainable fantasy in the imagination. You’ve literally fallen into the realm of rock stars.
Anyone who has a passion for rock history is welcome and encouraged to visit the gallery. There is no pressure to buy. Steven has a genuine interest to educate the masses, so rock history can live on. If that piece of history happens to take life over your fireplace mantel, so be it.
916 Springdale Rd – Website
@judymerhar wants to know:
If you could have a photograph of any rock star, who would it be?