Although it’s located in the Modern Wing’s photography galleries, Allen Ruppersberg; No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R(which stands for the Birth and Death of Rock and Roll) is far from a straight photography show. Over the last 20 years, Ruppersberg has been collecting musical and cultural ephemera to present what he refers to as “a sort of giant, deluxe walk-in boxed set of one possible history of Rock and Roll.”
The exhibition includes 200 feet of pegboard covered with hundreds of photocopied snapshots, record covers, obituaries, and other materials personally collected by Ruppersberg from flea markets and second hand stores. They are separated into five different themes that speak to the progression of music in 20th century America. And because an exhibition about music isn’t really complete without, well, music, the presentation also includes albums that Ruppersberg designed and produced. Visitors can listen to the more than 125 remastered and re-recorded songs as they’re walking through the space, but can also use an iPad to scroll through to their favorites. And to further facilitate an understanding of this archive, a couch and two reading stations hold binders with many of the articles for individual perusal.
Ruppersberg is no stranger to ambitious projects. During his recent artist talk at the museum, he spoke about a project from the early 1970s called Al’s Grand Hotel. In one of the ultimate convergences of art and life, Ruppersberg opened a functioning hotel along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood for six weeks. He invited paying guests, but also thought of it as a meeting place where anyone could come over to hang out, listen to a concert, or purchase the hotel’s furniture. And while the installation at the Art Institute isn’t for sale, I think the same edict holds true: stop by, hang out, and listen to some music.