Rock & Roll Pt.2
60 Woodblock Prints
On RFK Reeves
22” x 30”
Dieter Runge, 2006
In the spring of 2006 I took J. W. Junker’s class A History of Rock & Roll (MUS 477) at the University of Hawaii’s music department. It was probably the most fun class I ever took in college, undergrad or grad school. Part of it was the subject of course, but for the most part it was the combination of Jay Junker’s infectious personality and knowledge of the subject. It was in a good-sized auditorium with great acoustics, and a grand piano. Jay showed video clips and played lots of songs as he lectured, often standing next to the piano pounding the top of it with his palm to make a point. Most students were classical or ethnic music majors and when the Jay asked questions I was usually the only one raising my hand. But I still learned a lot, for example that the term rock’n roll was used as far back as the 19th century. Yes, it could be a ship rocking and rolling back and fourth as some dictionaries suggest, and yes a form of popular music developed during the 40’s and 50’s, but making love is probably much closer to the original meaning and that’s really how I see it. I knew for a long time that Bo Diddley took his beat straight from the church, but I learned much more about the influence of gospel on rock’n roll.
My field research project was to write about and document my time in New York City (May 1978-November 1988), my bands, recordings, band posters, record covers, videos, basically all my creative activities. I called it Dieter’s Rock’n Roll Revelation. Artist book publication soon. This looking back inspired me to take some of my band posters and recreate them as woodblock prints in the fall of 2006. I was also working on a print of my taiji master’s grandfather and one of the wooden Guan-yin sculpture at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I carved eight blocks all together. After pulling some prints of the individual blocks, I printed the taiji master on top of the New York Niggers. It opened up a massive flow of creative energy. I started to print the different blocks on top of each other, often using the ghost print technique, or partially blocking off the plates. I quickly realized that the prints reproduced the singular aesthetic of walls or fences covered with posters, aged by rain and sun, and partially ripped off. I created about 20 prints, each different from the other. When I showed them to my graduate adviser Yida Wang, she suggested I print 40 more. I went to the bookstore and got 40 more sheets of 22×30” BFK and went to work. I worked fast and spontaneous. The printmaking process itself became rock’n roll. The subject of the images became identical to the process. I hung all 60 prints, three on top of each other on a 25’ wall and another 10’ around the corner. Later a few were framed and hung in different shows. Some of the prints now hang in Hamburg, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Honolulu and Telluride. 27 appeared at a pop-up show in Honolulu’s Kaimuki (2013).
Rock & Roll Pt 2 refers then to the revisit of my life as a rock’n roller in NY through printmaking with a nod to Gary Glitter, not to exonerate him of his personal downfalls, but to point to the essence of rock’n roll. Rock’n roll in its essence is tribal. It is for this tribal element that I always strive for when I play, and aim to combine with intelligence, humor and spiritual uplift.