If you’re looking for a good place to salute the life of Alex Chilton (singer/songwriter and former front man of Big Star and Box Tops, among other bands), the William Eggleston exhibition at the Art Institute might be an appropriate location. Eggleston knew Chilton for decades and provided the cover photos for several of his albums, including Big Star’s second album Radio City (1974), as well as Chilton’s first solo venture, Like Flies on Sherbert (1979). Both of these album-cover images are in the exhibition.
The untitled image Chilton chose for Like Flies on Sherbert (see above) shows a cluster of dolls on the hood of an aqua-colored Cadillac. In Eggleston’s body of work, the image comes from the series Los Alamos, which includes about 2000 photographs taken on a number of road trips around the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like the image above, the photographs in Los Alamos document the randomness and absurdity that one might encounter on a trip across the American landscape.
After paying tribute at this image, move across Griffin Court to Gallery 188 and look for Eggleston’s sketchbook from 1978. On the left page you’ll see a rectangle with Chilton’s name and below a quick sketch of the image that ended up on the album cover the following year.
Alex Chilton isn’t the only example of Eggleston’s long-standing connection with music. The photographer has long been around the music scene, most evidently in this exhibition in the video Stranded in Canton, which shows a variety of musicians performing in Eggleston’s native south. Throughout the exhibition you can also find photographs that have been used for album covers for bands like Primal Scream, Chuck Prophet, and Spoon. See if you can figure out which ones they are . . . and let us know what you recognize.
William Eggleston. Untitled, 1970. From Los Alamos, 1965-68 and 1972-74, and 10.D.70.V2, 1996. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee, 2009.79. © Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy Cheim and Read, New York.