Blog / Yo La Tengo and Dario Robleto: mutual fans


By Wendy

Music sounds much better on a vinyl record than a CD or digital download. You can touch an album, smell it, open it like a book. You get to know and love the hisses and pops on every black disc in your collection.

Fans of Yo La Tengo (in concert in Durham, N.C., on Sept. 18) are eager for the band’s new release on pressed vinyl, “Popular Songs,” (due Sept. 8). The album is all the more special because of the beautiful and mysterious works of art on the cover by Texas-based artist Dario Robleto, whose work will be part of the Nasher Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “The Record” (opening August 19, 2010).

It’s no surprise that the band and artist are mutual fans.
Band co-founders Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan have known about Robleto’s work for about six years.

“My sister-in-law was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego,” Ira said (in an email interview). “She introduced us to Dario’s work, which we first saw in New York in 2003.” The band had “Popular Songs” in mind for the album title, but weren’t sure they wanted to use it until they thought of it in combination with Dario’s work, Ira said. “At first we planned on using images like ‘Sometimes Billie Is All That Holds Me Together’ and ‘A Dark Day for the Dinosaurs (Radio Edit),’ works that utilize musical materials and turn them into something unrecognizable (as music). But we couldn’t resist the cassette in ‘At War With the Entropy of Nature / Ghosts Don’t Always Want to Come Back,’ and quickly shifted gears.”

Dario has been listening to Yo La Tengo for at least 12 years, he said (in an email). When Ira first talked with Dario about working on the album cover, he asked about a 1997 work of Dario’s, “Deeper Into Movies (Buttons, Socks, Teddy Bears & Mittens).” The title is borrowed from a song on Yo La Tengo’s album, “I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One.” Ira wondered at the coincidence.

“Well I was thrilled to get to tell him it was no coincidence but an homage to that great album, which I had on repeat in [my] studio for months, and the mood it put me in during that body of work,” Dario said. “I’m very sensitive to the idea of creative acts being passed around for the purpose of inspiring more creative acts. A baton race with no finish line. So it is so special to me to get to offer back to them my creative act after all their creative acts have done for me. Art begets art.”

The vinyl record has long been an important part of Robleto’s work; he has used records as both material and subject matter in his sculptures and installations. He pulverized and melted down Billie Holiday records and pressed them into buttons that he colorfully painted for his 1998-1999 work, “Sometimes Billie Is All That Holds Me Together.” He used some of these buttons to replace missing buttons on found, abandoned, or thrift-store shirts. After the discarded clothing was made whole again, he re-donated it to the thrift stores or placed it back where it was originally found. This work will part of the Nasher Museum’s upcoming exhibition “The Record,” a group show involving 30 international artists from the 1960s to the present.

Yo La Tengo is coming to Durham’s Carolina Theater on Friday, Sept. 18. Read Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan’s “playlist” in Sunday’s New York Times.

Cover for Yo La Tengo’s new LP, “Popular Songs.” Dario Robleto, “At War with the Entropy of Nature/Ghosts Don’t Always Want to Come Back,” 2002. Cassette: Carved bone and bone dusk from every bone in the body, trinitite (glass produced during the first atomic test explosion, from Trinity test site, c. 1945, when heat from blast melted surrounding sand), metal screws, rust, typeset. Audiotape: An original composition of military drum marches, various weapon fire, and soldiers’ voices from battlefields of various wars made from E.V.P. recordings (Electronic Voice Phenomena: voices or sounds of the dead or past, detected through magnetic audiotape). Collection of Julie Kinzelman and Christopher Tribble.

Back cover for Yo La Tengo’s new LP “Popular Songs.” Dario Robleto, “Sometimes Billie is All That Holds Me Together,” 1998-1999. Hand-ground and melted vinyl records, various clothing, acrylic, spray paint. Several new buttons were crafted from melted Billie Holiday records to replace missing buttons on found, abandoned, or thrift-store clothing. After the discarded clothing was made whole again, it was re-donated to the thrift stores or placed back where it was originally found. Dimensions variable. Collection of Rebecca and Alexander Stewart, Seattle, Wash.

CD booklet for “Popular Songs.” Dario Robleto, “A Dark Day for the Dinosaurs (Radio Edit),” 2000-2001. Hand-carved dinosaur bone fragment, melted and powderized vinyl record of T. Rex’s “Life’s a Gas,” 1/8 x 1 1/2 x 1/8 inches. Private collection.

Dario Robleto visited the Nasher Museum in March. Photo by Dr. J. Caldwell.

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