Glen Wexler Brings Improbable Realities To The Album Cover
Glen Wexler is preeminent album cover artist famed in the music industry for his surrealistic photographs that make you look twice, and then look again.
According to Glen Wexler, “Photography provides the realism I envision to create photo-illustrated narratives of manufactured, altered or improbable realities…. My work relies on the perceived (but waning) credibility inherent in the photographic image. I recombine elements of the real world to create a fantastical vision in which the elements often react in a surreal or absurd manner. This involves the pre-visualization of the finished image, then breaking down the plan for the final outcome into manageable components to be individually photographed and, finally, digitally seamed together.” Wexler’s photos take the viewer deep into make-believe worlds that look real. His signature style of “improbable realities”.
Wexler was interested in album cover art at a young age. According to Wexler: “The work by Hipgnosis during the 1970s was very influential for me. Many of their album covers were for some of my favorite recording artists, and those images made up my “art collection” as a teenager. The blurring of the lines of the photographic medium was inspirational in terms of pointing to the unlimited narrative possibilities that could be expressed with altered or combined photographic imagery. That being said, most of their images up to that time were obviously manipulated or stripped together. I wanted to make surreal, conceptual and thought-provoking images, but more “seamless.” I was looking at photography as a means of suspending disbelief.”
As Wexler developed his talents, album cover art prove to be the perfect medium for his creativity. Wexler stated, “I went to Art Center College of Design for the technical training that I believed would exceed the scope of other art schools. It was my intention at that time to use these skills for my fine art work, but at Art Center I was exposed to the advertising works of Irving Penn and the fashion photography of Guy Bourdin, which I started to find more interesting and exciting than fine art photography. I considered moving to Europe to build a portfolio of fashion photography, but had the fantasy of shooting album covers. The recording industry seemed to be a very closed market, but when a door opened, I jumped at the opportunity and dropped out of school. I was very young, only 22, and hit the ground running professionally. I was much too naïve and focused to consider the thoughts of a mentor. I had a very clear vision of the type of images I wanted to create, and nothing else photographically was of much interest to me…. Album covers presented the unique opportunity to produce the images I wanted to create. My images were not applicable to the advertising market of the time, and it would have been cost prohibitive to create the work without the commissions. The recording industry provided a visual “playground” to experiment with elaborate photocompositions and to define a signature style.”
Glen Wexler was born September 15, 1955) in Palm Springs, California, the son of noted architect, Donald Wexler. He studied fine art photography at Humboldt State University and then transferred to the Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, California, which he ultimately left to pursue the design of album covers.
Wexler’s first album cover design was for “Blam!” by The Brothers Johnson when he was just 22 years old. Since then Wexler has worked with many well-known musicians and bands, including Michael Jackson, Steve Miller Band, Van Halen, Rush, KISS, Yes, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Slaughter, the Black Crowes, Chaka Kahn, Boston, Kansas, Herbie Hancock, Whitesnake, Peter Frampton, Bob Weir, and Chick Corea, to name a few. Wexler has lectured about his album cover work at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his album cover artwork was featured at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ “The Art Of Music” event in 2006.
Wexler remembers the work he did on Van Halen’s “Balance” album cover. “Another memorable experience was creating the Balance album cover for Van Halen. Drummer, Alex Van Halen explained in a creative meeting that, to the band, the title suggests the “duality of the human psyche,” and asked me to create a visual based on that concept. At that point, I had worked on hundreds of album covers, but never with this degree of thought provoking and unexpected direction.”
Wexler’s most recent album cover was for Heaven and Earth’s “Dig” ; which came out on vinyl on April 23, 2013.
Wexler states “Love seeing actual album covers again!… The record sounds like the “lost” album of a legendary classic rock band that was left in the vaults for the past 40 years. The singer is amazing…reminds me of Paul Rogers at his peak.”
In addition to his album cover works, Wexler’s photographic projects include corporate logos, film titles and book covers. In 1996, Wexler won first place at the Hollywood Reporter’s Key Art Awards for his photographic logo of the Batman Forever question mark. Wexler’s photograph of scientist, James Thompson, appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 2001. He received the Photojournalism of the Year award from the International Photography Awards in 2003, and in 2004 he won first place Best of Photojournalism award from the National Press Photographers Association.
Introduced to digital imaging technology in 1987, Wexler was among the first artists to adopt this technology as a tool in his creative process. He is also recognized as a worldwide leader in this technology.
According to Michael Ochs, music archivist and rock and roll history expert: “Glen Wexler doesn’t just create rock and roll album covers, he is rock and roll – in the best sense of the term. His album covers rock in their lyrical depiction and expansion of musical moments. He captures the essence of the artist and then wails with his own solo, creating a new entity that actually stands on its own.”
Wexler relates his our story: “When my images succeed, it is when they engage the viewer in a new experience. I met a musician the other night from a very famous band at a mutual friend’s wedding. He said that they were just discussing the new album cover and they wanted a “Glen Wexler-like” image. Of course, I told him he was talking to the right guy. For any visual artist, I think a major achievement is leaving a unique visual imprint.”