At the opening of “Storm Thorgerson—Computers Have a Lot to Answer For”, now on display through November 2 at Wicker Park gallery Public Works, the titular artist auctioned off a print of one of his famous album covers; the auction was unusual in that it was a trivia auction. The question: What is the lowest three-digit prime number wherein each digit is a prime number, the sum of which equals a prime number? After a few wrong guesses, someone finally answered correctly (223).
A math problem at an art auction may seem out of place, but it makes sense for Thorgerson, whose entire career showcases an obsession with distorting the quotidian into the irregular. The British photographer is highly regarded for his leading role (along with Aubrey Powell) in the British art design firm Hipgnosis, which created many famous album covers—most notably for Pink Floyd, but also for T. Rex, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin. While Hipgnosis frequently employed design in its work, Thorgerson most often works in photography, where he prefers to capture an unusual moment on an elaborate shoot rather than rely on special effects and image manipulation.
Thorgerson’s work and approach offer a range of fascinating oppositions: digital versus analog, photography versus painting, the real versus the unreal, music versus art, art versus product, and normal versus strange. That Thorgerson is able to challenge and confound all of these debates in almost all of his art is impressive. And on top of that, his work is usually pretty funny!
I met with Thorgerson the day after his opening to chat with him on his life and work. I found that he was a man who is careful and specific with what he says, irritated when he’s misrepresented, and fascinated with illusion and mystery. The following is the first part of our conversation as it took place on that warm Saturday afternoon. The second part will appear here tomorrow morning. (And for a summary of his work and information about the exhibit, check out my Three Beats item from a couple weeks back.)