Nirvana, Queen Latifah, Weezer, Tupac, Bjork, Lil’ Kim — check out these grunge, hip-hop and alternative music icons as you’ve never seen them before at “Mix Tape: Ultimate 90s Visual Playlist” at Riverhead’s East End Arts (133 Main Street). Curated by gallery manager Wendy Weiss, the exhibit showcases rare and never-before-seen photographs by Julie Kramer, a former Boston radio DJ who used to spin ’90s progressive rock, and Ernie Paniccioli, a Hip Hop Hall of Fame music historian. The gallery will host an opening reception on Saturday, Sept. 25 from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
Kramer, who studied photography at U Mass Dartmouth, was a DJ for Boston’s WFNX in the ’80s and ’90s and snapped many up-and-coming artists who went on to become major stars, including Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Dinvynils and many others.
A Brooklyn native, Paniccioli began to focus his lens on graffiti art in the 1970s and became “engulfed in hip-hop culture,” said Weiss. Affectionately known as Brother Ernie, Paniccioli documented the entire history of hip-hop in two books he authored and was inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame in 2014.
“After the shutdown [last year], we didn’t have much programming lined up,” explained Weiss, who has been with East End Arts since the spring. “I wanted something fun and different as restrictions lifted.”
The stories behind the photographs are often as interesting as the subjects themselves, said Kramer who will be featuring these behind-the-scenes narratives through supplemental materials and anecdotes shared by the artists.
Guests will be able to meet Kramer at the opening reception. If you can’t make it, East End Arts music instructor Mark MK, an R&B artist who’s opened for John Legend and Flo Rida, will host a virtual talk with Kramer and Paniccioli on Oct. 7. His students will perform at the gallery’s closing reception on Saturday, Nov. 13.
So what’s with the exhibit’s name?
“I realized it was a mix tape,” Weiss said, reflecting on the diverse genres from punk to rap captured in the show. “And what was a mix tape? It was something that took hours to do and you did it for somebody you loved, and it captured everything you liked [musically on a cassette tape].”
In the tradition of live music, there’s a support act. Louis Navas, a multimedia artist, will showcase work inspired by famous album covers in an adjoining room.
For more information on East End Arts’ “Mix Tape” click here.