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UPDATED: COC Art Gallery presents 'Collages' by artist-musician Bob Neuwirth

Rare exhibit runs through March 3 on main campus

Posted: February 12, 2011 9:27 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2011 10:53 a.m.
The College of the Canyons Art Gallery hosts a rare exhibition of more than 30 abstract collages produced by celebrated singer, songwriter, producer and longtime visual artist Bob Neuwirth, who only infrequently exhibits his art in public, through March 3. The College of the Canyons Art Gallery hosts a rare exhibition of more than 30 abstract collages produced by celebrated singer, songwriter, producer and longtime visual artist Bob Neuwirth, who only infrequently exhibits his art in public, through March 3.
The College of the Canyons Art Gallery hosts a rare exhibition of more than 30 abstract collages produced by celebrated singer, songwriter, producer and longtime visual artist Bob Neuwirth, who only infrequently exhibits his art in public, through March 3.
Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth (left) was invited to exhibit a collection of his works at the COC Art Gallery by the gallery's director, Larry Hurst, and was special geuest at an artist's reception at the gallery Saturday afternoon. "Bob Neuwirth: Collages" shows at the gallery through March 3. Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth (left) was invited to exhibit a collection of his works at the COC Art Gallery by the gallery's director, Larry Hurst, and was special geuest at an artist's reception at the gallery Saturday afternoon. "Bob Neuwirth: Collages" shows at the gallery through March 3.
Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth (left) was invited to exhibit a collection of his works at the COC Art Gallery by the gallery's director, Larry Hurst, and was special geuest at an artist's reception at the gallery Saturday afternoon. "Bob Neuwirth: Collages" shows at the gallery through March 3.
Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth's "Collages" collection is on display at the COC Gallery on the main College of the Canyons campus in Valencia, where Neuwirth was guest at an artist's reception Saturday afternoon. The exhibit runs through March 3. Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth's "Collages" collection is on display at the COC Gallery on the main College of the Canyons campus in Valencia, where Neuwirth was guest at an artist's reception Saturday afternoon. The exhibit runs through March 3.
Celebrated multi-media artist Bob Neuwirth's "Collages" collection is on display at the COC Gallery on the main College of the Canyons campus in Valencia, where Neuwirth was guest at an artist's reception Saturday afternoon. The exhibit runs through March 3.
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The College of the Canyons Art Gallery is hosting a rare exhibition of more than 30 abstract collages produced by celebrated singer, songwriter, producer and longtime visual artist Bob Neuwirth, who only infrequently exhibits his art in public, through March 3.

An artist's reception for Neuwirth was held Saturday, Feb. 12, in the gallery, located on the college's Valencia campus.

Though known mainly for his music career, Neuwirth, 71, began his career as an art student in Boston and has never stopped being a visual artist.

While in art school he became immersed in Cambridge's local blues-folk music scene. He learned first-hand from urban blues legends such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt and the Rev. Gary Davis. Neuwirth then began playing his own shows across the country and around the world.

Also known as a collaborator and instigator, Neuwirth over the years had close working relationships with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and John Cale.Neuwirth's written work was performed by Bonnie Raitt, T Bone Burnett, Kris Kristofferson and many others.

In the mid-1960s Neuwirth worked and traveled with Dylan, including time spent on the chaotic tours depicted in the films "Don't Look Back" and "Eat the Document." A decade later, Neuwirth traveled with Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.

A figure on the New York underground film scene, Neuwirth also filmed the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, and attended Woodstock in August 1969. He and poet Michael McClure co-wrote "Mercedes Benz" with  and old friend Janis Joplin. She recorded a cappella song in a single take three days before she died in October 1970.

Neuwirth maintains a studio in Santa Monica and is active in the Venice, Calif. art scene.

"I met Bob in the 1980s while we both served on the Artist's Advisory Committee for the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center collection, and was struck with his great energy, honesty and humor," said Larry Hurst, COC Art Gallery director. "His work exemplifies his free spirit and creative integrity. I am very pleased he has agreed to this exhibition."

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"Larry is an old friend of mine who happens to be a painter," Neuwirth said Feb. 12, sitting on a bench outside the gallery, taking a short break from the hubub of the reception inside to talk with The Signal.

"He asked if I would be interested in showing something at this gallery, and I said yeah," he said. "This was two years ago, and now, suddenly, the time was right."

The art and craft of collage is hardly new -- it dates back to the 13th century, Neuwirth said. His affair with the form began a bit more recently, circa late 1950s.

"I've been doing it off and on since I was in art school, at the Boston Museum school some years ago," he said.

Neuwirth created the 30-plus pieces now on display at the COC Gallery over the last few decades. "There's no particular theme, but they all come about pretty much the same way," he said.

"They start off with a colored background, then I just add to the color with other pieces of color. They just happen. Instead of coming from a tube or palette, (the color) just happens to come from magazines or torn-up pieces of paper."

There was time for just a couple more quick questions before Neuwirth had to jump back into the reception.

Dylan has an interest in a coffee shop in Santa Monica; seen him lately? "I don't ever see him really," Neuwirth said. "He's running on a different set of rails than I am at the moment."

Neuwirth also had a studio in New York, but it recently closed. "I lost the space when an Internet company came and swallowed the building," he said.

Flashing back to the Monterey Pop festival in 1967: "It was the birth of the pop festival, and a really good one," Neuwirth said. "There were some stunning, breakthrough performances -- Janis, Jimi Hendrix, The Who. And Electric Flag -- Mike Bloomfield's (another) one of the great guitarists who's no longer with us."

And what's ahead? "I have a show at the Bergamot Station on Olympic in Santa Monica in May," he said. "It's going to be paintings. Some go all the way back to 1960."

A small shape darted through the air between branches on a nearby tree.

"Whoa, look at the hummingbird, dude," Neuwirth said. "This is a good interview."

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