October 20, 2010

Art: Rock ’n’ roll Retrospective at Revelry

“Retrospective: Don Aters” at Revelry Boutique Gallery is the kind of art exhibit you want to bring your dad to — accessible, interesting, affordable. Nestled in the two-room nooks of the gallery, the show features 50 candid photos of iconic rock ’n’ roll legends from the last four decades, shot by Versailles, Ky., photographer and rock historian Don Aters. In addition to dynamic onstage shots of Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, there are also some surprising must-see snapshots: Elton John reading a magazine in a waiting room outside Bill Graham’s office (ironically, next to another publication that features John on the cover); a less-than-flattering outtake from the announcement of Paul and Linda McCartney’s engagement; and a vividly colored KISS triptych. The walls read like legends of classic rock roll call, but the exhibit raises the question — how the hell did one guy manage to capture all this?

Revelry co-owner and founder Paula Weyler George explains that after Aters moved from Kentucky to the West Coast in 1970, his photos caught the eye of Janis Joplin, who offered him the opportunity to photograph her shows. Aters was friends with Joplin’s manager, Chet Helms. Two pictures of Joplin that Aters took during the last year of her life are included in the show. By working with Joplin, he acquired the contacts and cachet needed to photograph the top rock stars of the time.

It is obvious from the intimacy and proximity of these images that Aters, who met Revelry co-owner Mary Le when she was working in banking, enjoyed an uncommon degree of access to these artists, whether on- or offstage. George related a story in which Aters was once denied backstage access to the Allman Brothers at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. “Gregg (Allman) came out and basically told them, ‘Without me, you don’t have a show, and without Don (Aters), I don’t play.”

The prints are matted and range in price from $180 to $750. For George, it was an important selection criterion that the fine art at Revelry be both relatable and reasonably priced. “We wanted to be able to afford the things we were selling,” she says. “(We want to show) accessible, original art by local artists.” So my instinct to bring my usually museum-averse father here was not a lark but the by-product of a well-executed curatorial choice by two savvy business partners.

George majored in business and art at Bellarmine University, but had grown restless in the ensuing years working exclusively for her family business. Le had left her job as a banker and was at a creative crossroads when she reconnected with George last year at their Assumption High School alumni reunion. The pair, who boast a stock of 95-percent locally produced crafts and fine arts, hope they will tap into a niche in the art market for unique, attainable craft pieces.

Open since September, the gallery features a rotating selection of fine art by emerging local and regional artists to complement their craft offerings. “Retrospective: Don Aters” will be followed by an exhibition of paintings by Lexington artist Debbie Graviss and collages by Christy McBride.

‘Retrospective: Don Aters’
Through Nov. 10
Revelry Boutique-Gallery • 980 Barret Ave.
414-1278 • www.revelrygallery.com