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Photos: The Hand-Painted Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip

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From the late 1960s to the advent of MTV in the early 1980’s, hand painted rock 'n' roll billboards dominated the Sunset Strip. The Doors were said to have started the trend of using the fleeting masterpieces as record ads with the gorgeous billboard for their 1967 debut album, which towered over the legendary Sunset Strip that same year. The billboards themselves were a collaborative art form, designed and brought to life through the work photographers, illustrators, painters, art directors, producers, designers, and of course, the musicians themselves.

Photographer Robert Landau was just a teenage kid living with his dad in the hills above the Strip when he started documenting the ephemeral art pieces, shooting with a Nikkormat camera and Kodachrome film. Decades later, Landau rediscovered those Kodachrome images, which remain the only extensive collection of photographs that document those legendary billboards. In 2012, Angel City Press published those images in a coffee table book entitled Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip. As Jonathan Lethem (!) wrote in The New York Times back in 2012:

Landau’s book documents nothing less than a kind of triumphalist tribal ritual, an unlikely moment in the heedless monetization of countercultural dreams by a recording industry briefly high on a myth of its own transformational influence. The billboards depict a utopian realm just inches away that yet refuses your entry utterly. Needless to say, the musicians themselves never attained it.

This Thursday those same iconic billboards will be exhibited again, when Landau holds a book signing and photography show at the Fine Arts Building downtown. The exhibition will be presented by Art Meets Architecture and Fathom Gallery, with live jazz by Granville "Danny" Young and food from Wood Spoon.

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The artist reception and exhibition will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 12 in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building at 811 W 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibition will remain open from January 12th through February 5th, 2017.