An art lover with established ties to the rock music world is coming to town with an exhibition titled “The Art of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison & Bob Dylan.”
Neal Glaser, 61, a New Yorker based in Philadelphia, will present the collection at Roswell’s Ann Jackson Gallery in April, and all the pieces will be for sale.
Included are paintings and lithographs by three of the four Beatles: McCartney, Starr and Lennon. The late Harrison’s contribution is a set of song illustrations conceived by musician Keith West and signed by Harrison.
Lennon, killed in 1980, was a student at the Liverpool College of Art in his youth and presented the “Bag One” series to wife Yoko Ono as a wedding present. The sketches were first displayed at the London Art Gallery in January 1970 and promptly were seized by police because of their erotic content. They are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and are part of the Roswell show.
Bob Dylan’s artwork has only recently been made available in the United States, though he has exhibited in Europe for many years. “I’m pretty much interested in people, histories, myth and portraits — people of all stripes,” Dylan said in a press release.
The AJT spoke to Glaser the same day that Beatles producer George Martin’s death was announced.
AJT: Did you know Martin?
Glaser: I met him a couple of times. He was a pretty good guy. I didn’t know him well, but everybody liked him. That speaks volumes.
AJT: What’s your background in art?
Glaser: I was in the art business in the early 1980s. I sold traditional art, whatever was the trend at the time, but this is a passion of mine. I’m fortunate to have become friendly with musicians, and I believe they have a talent that far exceeds them just writing a song.
AJT: Tell us about the exhibition.
Glaser: First, we’ll start with the Beatles. I’ve always been a huge fan, as millions of people are, but most don’t get to see the visual side of these musicians, and I find that extremely interesting. Lennon did the “Bag One” series in 1969, which is the only artwork released in his lifetime. He put these prints in a bag and signed them. He was a line drawer. He had tremendous humor in his drawing. He idolized (James) Thurber, who was an illustrator; he liked Al Hirschfeld. People will get a kick out of seeing that.
Then we go to Paul, who’s completely different. He’s an abstract expressionist, like Willem de Kooning. He likes (Mark) Rothko, Sol LeWitt. He takes scenery, and in his own creative mind he makes that work. So you’ll see Paul, who many think, “Oh, he’s just a pop songwriter,” but his artwork is pretty deep and thoughtful.
Ringo is totally a pop artist, loves colors. It looks like the ’60s, and he does peace signs, and he’s done images of himself. He’s been compared to pop artists like (Keith) Haring and Warhol, but recently he’s been doing stencils, and that’s been compared to Banksy. I think people will love that.
And finally, George, who had enough sense to know he couldn’t paint. He had a friend, Keith West, a musician who had, like, one hit. George did a book called “Songs by George Harrison,” and he asked Keith to illustrate “Piggies,” “Taxman” and “Here Comes the Sun,” which were then released as lithographs. So it’s really Keith West’s interpretation of the songs, but it’s authorized and signed by George.
AJT: What about Dylan?
Glaser: Dylan has been a prolific painter for 50 years. He painted the cover of “Self Portrait” and The Band’s first album. He took lessons from a master in Brooklyn, and when he travels, he has his sketchbook with him, and he’s always sketching scenes. His management has allowed us to show a handful of Bob’s original paintings as well as his prints. It’s a view of the world through Dylan’s eyes.
AJT: You sound like you enjoy your job.
Glaser: This is kind of new for us. We’ve never gone out with the Beatles and Bob Dylan together. We’re hoping that the enthusiasm is there. I’ve done traveling shows but nothing of this magnitude. It’s not about money. If people come out and appreciate the art and comment on it, I’m thrilled.
What: “The Art of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison & Bob Dylan”
Where: Ann Jackson Gallery, 932 Canton St., Roswell
When: Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (reception 6 to 8 p.m.); Sunday, April 10, noon to 5
Admission: Free; www.rockartshow.com