Vertical stabilizer of a Lockheed P-38. © Bob Seidemann

Most rock-poster fans know Bob Seidemann (1941-2017) for his 1967 photograph of the Grateful Dead standing in a Daly City suburb, his portrait of Janis Joplin wearing only a cascade of beads, and his album covers for Jerry Garcia, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and Blind Faith. But by the mid-1980s, Seidemann had wearied of the “cruel and shallow money trench,” as Hunter S. Thompson once described the music business, so he set his sights upon loftier subjects: airplanes, the pilots who flew them, and the engineers who designed them.

For the next 15 years, Seidemann pointed his camera at fighter jets left to rust in the California desert, commercial aircraft being assembled at a Boeing plant outside of Seattle, and even a few intercontinental nuclear bombers at an airfield south of Moscow. By the time he was done, Seidemann had organized 302 of the thousands photographs he took over that decade and a half into three thematic portfolios, known collectively as “Airplane as Art.”

From September 13, 2018, through February 2019, two dozen of these stunning black-and-white photographs will be on view at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. Focusing on Seidemann’s more abstract and minimal compositions, the show offers viewers a curated peek inside Seidemann’s mammoth body of work. It’s a rare opportunity to glimpse a lesser-known side of this multidimensional artist, whose interests flew far beyond the world of rock ‘n’ roll.

The opening reception for Bob Seidemann’s exhibition at MSRI on September 13 is free, open to the public, and runs from 5:45 – 8:00 p.m. For directions and parking information, click here. To learn more about Seidemann’s “Airplane as Art” series, check out this article at Collectors Weekly.


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