Notes on the American Dream artwork by the man behind it

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We catch up with Rob Reynolds, the artist who created the divisive cover art for LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream

This month saw the release of LCD Soundsystem’s triumphant American Dream, an album that stands among the celebrated band’s finest moments in both songcraft and mood. Coupled with their current European tour, it feels like the return is complete, and there’s one more great band on the circuit.

It wasn’t always a sure thing, along the way there were accusations that breaking up was a ploy to sell tickets and that reuniting was a betrayal of fans’ trust, not to mention the worry that – like so many other bands’ return after a long break – the new music would be limp and unjustified. So when the band teased the artwork before the album’s release, it was bound to elicit a response and Twitter duly obliged.

To help us try to figure out the divisive artwork, we thought we’d chat to Rob Reynolds, the artist behind it.

First things first, who are you and what do you do?

I am an artist. I live and work and teach art in California. My studio is in Los Angeles.

How would you describe the kind of art you create?

I make paintings, sculpture and photographs. Over the past bunch of years I have been making pictures of photographs of the sky, icebergs, shipwrecks, and rainbows. Painting takes the most time, so it forms kind of the center of my work. Currently, I am finishing a large outdoor mural in Denver, Colorado that goes up in mid-September.

I also have a project, Noise Heals, with some LA music friends. We make loud formless music.

How did your work for American Dream come about?

I met James in NYC in the 90s when I was in art college. He was the sound guy at a club called Spiral where I was playing in a band with my friends Sam Lipsyte, Big Jimmy Fingers and Bruce Oyster Cooley. James and I started, what turned out to be, a very long and amusing conversation. When he intimated that LCD might get back together, he asked if I might have a painting that could work for the album.

Was the image of the sun and clouds produced before James Murphy contacted you?

The short answer is yes. The image is of an oil painting on canvas I made titled, UP!. I have been making pictures of the sky for a long time. It’s everywhere and it’s nowhere, its insanely beautiful and lately, universally, a bit terrifying. I had a bunch of images for James and the band to consider. I wanted to offer them something that somehow illuminated and reflected the grinding present.

What was the initial vision for the piece?

We talked about clouds and skies. The ones over America.

How did Murphy describe his ideas for the record and the art to you?

James shared a couple of potential titles and a general mood as he worked on the album. We looked at a lot of images of the sky.

People have spotted a similarities to this cover of Infinite Jest, was that intentional?

No. While I recognize David Foster Wallace’s achievement, and grew up in Massachusetts where that book is partly set, my interests are on one side, more art-based. For instance work by J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, Edward Weston, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter; and on the other side, way less high-brow: advertisements, stock photos. Ultimately, I wanted the image to have an oblique formal relationship to the full-blast effect of the light-radiating, titanic LCD mirror ball in their live shows. Mike Vadino did the layout, typesetting.

In what ways do you think the art reflects the themes and moods of the album?

I leave that to the listeners. I hope it has a productive relationship and that people can look at it from time to time as they listen to the songs – headphones on.