Exhibit preview: "Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip" captures a bygone era

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If you need proof the Sunset Strip is no longer the rock ’n’ roll mecca it once was, just take a look at the billboards. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s — the height of the Strip’s rock infamy — the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard was littered with billboards advertising concerts and records from icons such as The Beatles, Bowie and The Stones. Now it’s mainly just fashion, TV and movies.

Something more important was lost during this advertising shift, the art of the billboard. See, billboards used to be hand-painted works. Now, like everything else, it’s digital. Thankfully, Los Angeles-based photographer Robert Landau was around to capture the best and brightest of the Strip.

“Not only is this a photojournalism exhibit of L.A. in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, but it captures the beauty of these hand-painted billboards, which is a completely lost art at this point. That’s the main reason we grabbed this,” said David Gentilini, assistant director of Capitol University’s Schumacher Gallery, where Landau’s photography makes up the current exhibit, “Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip.”

Landau began snapping images of the rock ’n’ roll billboards with his Kodachrome, and immediately knew he’d found his calling. For the next three decades, Landau captured history with his photography, even publishing a 2012 book containing the images.

The photographer hadn’t looked at many of these images for years, and decided to expand on their backgrounds using a combination of his own memories, interviews and research to contextualize the images. Some of this information can be read at the “Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards” exhibit.

Anecdotes around the imagery include Paul McCartney’s missing head from The Beatles’ Abbey Road billboard, or the time the Boss vandalized his own billboard.

While these stories offer fun rock ’n’ roll trivia, the main attraction in the exhibit — which closes Thursday, Oct. 16 — is the artwork created by the painters of the billboards and Landau’s masterful capturing of them.

Robert Landau photo courtesy of Photographic Traveling Exhibitions

Schumacher Gallery

Through Oct. 16

555 E. Main St., Bexley