In 2016, the Gabba Gallery made waves when they introduced L.A.’s art community to a show called Cratedigger: The Lost Art of Album Cover Art. A number of artists created 12×12 pieces of art designed to look like album covers. It was an innovative, ingenuitive exhibition, and its success meant that it happened again the following year. Last year though, the show was expanded. Cratedigger became Remix: The Art of Music. Elena Jacobson of the Gabba Gallery is the assistant-curator, alongside Jason Ostro.

“We did Cratedigger for two years and we wanted to expand it to still be music related,” Jacobson says. “We still have some that are album cover style, and then we have others that are just any kind of music related art. Starting last year, we partnered with Adopt the Arts, and so part of the proceeds from the show will go to that organization. The only assignment the artists were given was to use music as their inspiration, and then they could do whatever they wanted with that. We’ve invited over 60 artists, and they’re submitting one to four pieces of work depending on the artist.”

So besides the album cover-style art, the show includes portraits of musicians, and pieces that are more loosely influenced by a favorite song or a type of music. Meanwhile, most of the artists are people that Gabba have worked with in the past. 

“They’re people who we enjoy their art,” Jacobson says. “There are some new artists that we haven’t worked with before. We have some that we were connected with through Adopt the Arts, that they’ve worked with. We like to have a range of styles.”

Amy Smith has been showing at Gabba for about five years, and she says that Ostro has been a tremendous supporter of her work throughout that time. She has been involved with the show for the last three years, which means since the start of Cratedigger.

This year I’m really excited about the pieces I made for the show,” Smith says. “I’m always listening to music or podcasts while I work. I realized I wanted to bring some of my love for hip-hop into the mix but also keep the message of female empowerment as the underlying theme.”

Smith was listening to some old Beastie Boys, when “Sure Shot” came on, and the song reminded her of how great the band is.

“I have always loved the Beastie Boys,” she says. “They were a staple growing up with two older brothers in the ‘90s. With that inspiration, I did a word collage piece with the lyrics of Adam Yauch: ‘I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, the disrespect of women has got to be through. To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends, I want nothing but love and respect till the end.’ That’s when the Still Ill film came out. It’s great to hear them talk about their work and to hear the influence Adam gave to the band. It was awesome. In addition, I made three other pieces I thought were so fun. Staying with the female empowerment message, I made a triptych word collage of lyrics: ‘Who Run the World,’ ‘Girls’ and ‘Just Wanna Have Fun.’”

Smith adds that music is a learning and motivational tool for her. 

“I have learned a lot from music that influences my life on a daily basis,” she says. “It’s a beautiful outlet and I love incorporating it into my routine.”

Meanwhile, artist Toshee is another who got involved with Cratedigger in 2016. He says that he’s been lucky to be invited back every year since.

“The big difference between Cratedigger and Remix has been the addition of Adopt the Arts to the mix,” Toshee says. “The show has also grown quite a bit; this year it features over 70 artists. I’ve made a piece titled ‘Mixtapes nº1.’ It features a quartet of multi-colored audio cassette tapes — the kind popular in the ’70s and ’80s — set against an abstracted backdrop reminiscent of a boombox speaker. The piece is made from a single cast of concrete: no fasteners, no adhesives.”

Toshee says that his mixtape-inspired work is a monument to a bygone era.

“It’s an elegy to the physical form that for me was synonymous with music during all of my formative years,” he says. “It also speaks to my experience growing up in New York City, where cassette tapes and boomboxes were an important part of the streetscape.”

The artist is no stranger to the music world, having worked at Napster for many years in their music services department. 

“Part of my job was to discover new music and write about it,” he says. “The record labels would send us every one of their new releases; we’d have piles of CDs on our desks. The job was a great fit because I’ve always been passionate about all kinds of music — reggae, Latin, world music, jazz, blues, rock… I’ll listen to anything. I’ve always been a fan of album art and how a great cover can capture the essence of a record, and even expand on it through its own distinct medium. Bringing together these creative experiences resonates on a deeply personal level, as both art and music are integral to my life’s story.”

On that note, Jacobson says that the exhibit is for both lovers of music and art.

Of all the shows that we do, this one is really accessible to a wide audience, because if you love music you can probably find something to catch your interest,” she says. “So it’s not just for art lovers. Music lovers, art lovers, everybody.”

After the success of last year’s show, the organizers fully expect to continue hosting Remix in 2020, although they’re waiting until after 2019’s exhibit to make a decision. (We have faith.) Meanwhile, they’re excited about the artists they have working with them, and they’re excited about the involvement of Adopt the Arts. You should be too.

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