[A]n icon of NYC’s 1970s and early 1980s downtown scene, Arthur Russell is one of electronic music’s most influential yet elusive figures. Experimenting across genres – from classical to disco, to new wave and early house, Russell’s back catalogue is breathtaking in its range, his compositions as moving a they are innovative. An artistic maverick who collaborated with the likes of Talking Heads’ David Byrne and writer Allen Ginsberg, Russell’s influence extended beyond the music scene, yet so much mystery has surrounded his life.
Opening from 30 May until 3 June at St John at Bethnal Green, Swimming with Arthur Russell is Boiler Room’s expansive tribute to Russell offering an unprecedented insight into the personal life and work of a genius. Curated in collaboration with the New York Public Library, the exhibition presents unseen pieces from Russell’s personal archive – including family photos, portraits, sketches, personal letter and songbooks.
Exhibition curator Amar Ediriwira shares one of the touching stories unearthed while putting together the show:
“One of my favourite stories about Arthur is from when he joined a Buddhist commune in San Francisco in the late ‘60s. He was forbidden to play the cello, so he played in his closet. Of course, he would later come out and embody fluidity with his work, not unlike the gender play of drag. He sought to queer everything from instrumentation to categorisation to notation – as the non-linear graphical scores found in the archives reveal.”
Boiler Room will be screening cult documentary Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell’ as part of the series. The show also coincides with the launch of their new film platform 4:3, dubbed to become a netflix for underground culture.
Preview images from the exhibition below and find out more on the Boiler Room website