As the world slowly absorbs Peter Jackson’s epic Get Back,
it seems like as good a time as any to catch up on one of my favourite ongoing art-things: We Buy White Albums
In response to Peter Blake’s wonderfully populated Sgt. Pepper’s sleeve, artist Richard Hamilton conceived an act of pure pop-minimalism for The Beatles’ eponymous 1968 follow-up: nothing. The first pressing was plain white, aside from a printed serial number (“to create the ironic situation of a numbered edition of something like 5 million copies”) and “The BEATLES" set in Helvetica, blind embossed into the sleeve. Every record was more or less identical … for a while.
Cut to fifty or so years later and artist Rutherford Chang has (so far) collected 2,952 copies of The Beatles aka the White Album. It’s fascinating to see so many of those sleeves in one place; a work of multiples, reunited. Time and nature have left patterns – over the years, many have acquired mould or been patched up with tape; all have been subjected to yellowing and ringwear. But Chang’s collection reveals a more fascinating and wild force of nature: the lure of the blank canvas. Stickers, labels, doodles, lists, stamps, copious amounts of biro, love notes, horrifying portraits, marginalia (vinylania?), corporate mascots, e e cummings – all life is here.