At Friday (Oct 7th) evening's art opening of Billy Sprague's space themed album cover exhibit at North Oakland's As Is Exhibitions gallery space at 4707 Telegraph Ave. so many people showed up to catch the unique album cover exhibit by the avid record collector / Amoeba Berkeley employee, that for much of the night the large crowd spilled outside onto the Telegraph Avenue sidewalk. It was the perfect night for Billy's opening since the Bay Area early October weather was in Indian Summer mode, plus it was First Friday's in Oakland with art openings everywhere including right next door at Smokey's Tangle art space that shares a doorway with the 4707 space. Among the large crowd that showed up at the event were many of Billy Sprague's fellow Ameobites. "Tom McKwon, Shawn Williams, Big Tunde, Gail, Marc Weinstein & family, Ryan Stark, Kent Randolph, Ramon, Lori and Steve, Ian, Ranon, Rebecca & Matt plus a bunch of ex-employees," (including DJ Inti) all converged at the last Friday's packed opening reported the curator.
Like all the other lifelong music collectors I was drawn in by all of these amazing album covers - many I already knew but a lot I had never even seen before like Music for Sleepwalkers Only which - one of Sprague's personal faves that he accurately describes as, "a great mostly black galactic cover with three sleeping pills floating in space in a rather phallic manner."
The album covers, which numbered about 120 in total (including several gatefolds), spanned several decades. "The whole human interest in the space race sparked a lot of covers in the 50's and 60's," said Sprague. "However there's alot of 70's and 80's in there too! Synthesizers were getting more popular and bands wanted that sort of feel with their covers; futuristic baby! The newest record in there was a Bobby Conn album depicting a futuristic Los Angeles. That one was done in the 90's." I wondered which came first; the music or the art? I asked avid record collector Sprague if he had been drawn to them initially just for the music but then later thought: Hey, these would make a great space themed exhibit? "I started with the imagery from the covers. The fact that I love synthesizers and that the records usually had some on it just sweetened the deal for me," said Sprague continuing, "After about fifty covers I decided [that] I needed to make an installation with them all. That idea sparked in my head about three years ago. It's been a long process!"
Further proving his love of synthesizers Sprague invited friend Scott Caligure (an artist on Oakland's Sanity Muffin cassette tape label) to Friday's opening party to perform "live synth soundscapes" music from the gallery’s cozy bay window. Not only that but he also installed mood lighting and a fog machine to add the final perfect touch to the exhibit's space age theme. "I wanted to create an immerse experience, total sensory massage," said Sprague. "The fog machine just seemed to add to the surrealness of the evening."
The exhibit runs through the end of this month but the 4707 Telegraph Ave gallery's hours are just four a week: Saturdays noon to 4pm. If you can't make it to the Temescal district gallery you can check out the photos (taken by Scott Caligure, Shahram, & myself) here on this Ameoblog of the exhibit. Or keep a watch on the Amoeba website for future exhibits by Sprague who told me that, "I would love to bring it to other cities. It's a fun installation to do; a lot of smiles and oooh's and ahhh's going on - like a contained firework display. I would like to do it bigger and better next time; maybe more lasers and definitely more covers! Theres been some interest down in LA." If you have a complimentary space and would like to host Billy Sprague's exhibit he invites you to email him at email@example.com
Before letting him go, I asked Billy Sprague if he had anything to add? "I'd like to thank Amoeba for helping spread the word on the show, it's right up our employee's alley as well as our customers! Fun with records, how can you lose? I'd also like to thank friends who have given me albums and helped me with my hunt; Monty, Kent, Craig, Shawn. Thanks for helping make it a great installation show!" For more info on the exhibit that runs through end of the month (last day is Saturday Oct 29th) which is located at 4707 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, CA visit the webstie for As Is Exhibitons