Since its conception in the mid 1970s, the boombox portable cassette player has become a symbol for urban communities, youth culture, and the unifying power of music. New York City based photographer and filmmaker Lyle Owerko started The Boombox Project in the wake of September 11th terrorist attacks, hoping to focus on the constructive and prolific products of humanity. His original photo series posed a collection of Boombox portraits, exhibiting models of these cultural relics spanning from the late 70s and early 80s. The project was published into a book in 2010 called The Boombox Project: The Machines, the Music, and the Urban Underground, a hardcover visual timeline of the proverbial ghetto blaster’s evolution, with a foreword penned by Spike Lee himself, and a collection of personal anecdotes from Hip-Hop icons like LL Cool J and Fab 5 Freddy.
In collaboration with Los Angeles design and art fabrication studio Pretty In Plastic, Owerko has reimagined his photo series this year in a exhibition of multicolored boombox sculptures made from fiberglass with individually cast resin components. Vox Machina (voice of the machine) is a colorful, three-dimensional extension of Owerko’s musical hardware excavation. The show features these limited edition sculptures in four colors: Cobalt Blue, Asphalt Black, Halt Red, and Bone White, as well as 100 oversized cassette tapes signed and numbered by the artist himself. The show’s description quotes Owerko saying, “The series represents the four elements of hip-hop as 'earth, water, air and fire'—the fifth element is collaboration, the spirit of hip-hop.” The Boombox Project and Vox Machina are on display for the Art Basel in Miami at the Jackson Fine Art gallery as well as The Dean Collection with Bacardi from December 1st through December 5th. Check out some shots of the sculptures below: