It's no secret that vinyl records' popularity has been continuously growing in the past decade, with last year's sales reaching the highest they have since 1991. When Chicago artist Robin Monique Rios heard about the vinyl resurgence last year, her mind raced with a wave of nostalgia and a big idea for her next collaborative art exhibit.
Rios gathered 63 artists to create 101 pieces of art on vinyl records for the first annual Spin It art exhibit, which will be open from May 19–June 16 at the 4ArtSPACE in Chicago.
"If you look back, there was such great artwork on the vinyl records themselves and also the sleeves," says Rios, the curator behind the exhibit. "I remember the biggest thing was going through the record store and flipping through all the sleeves and seeing such great artwork. Sometimes I wouldn't even know the band but I wanted to hear it just because of the cover."
Rios began planning the exhibit, which she says is an ode to vinyl, late last summer. She ordered a batch of 150 old records from a crafter online in California, along with sleeves for the records, which most artists have used.
"These artists are all diverse," Rios points out, and the work featured in the exhibit highlights that in both the voices and the mediums used for each piece. Most of the 63 artists involved with the project painted their record designs, while some transferred works of digital photography onto the vinyl by printing images onto a sticky vinyl sheet and then adhering it to the record. Each work expresses something different, from an MTV-esque robot in space to a celebration of the birth of Chicago with the city's emblem.
Rios' nostalgic view on vinyl records also led her to pass along advice to each of the artists: don't "overthink" the work. Picking out vinyl at the store was always a fluid experience, almost impulsive. The artwork would initially draw her into the music actually on the record, not the other way around.
"It helps artists to step out of the box and create something with a notion of enjoyment, not so much putting too much thought into it," Rios says. "I think as an artist we get too much in our head that things become a little orchestrated, where I just kind of wanted this to flow."
That emotion-first impression is clear on some of the works in the exhibit. On Phoenix artist Nadia Vanilla's piece, the record artwork depicts a nude woman listening to music through earbud headphones. It's an intimate look at the personal experience of listening to music—a similar relaxed nirvana Rios and other vinyl-lovers alike feel when they hear the crackling pop of a record spinning.
"The nod to it was the most important part, and the remembrance of those days—what it sounds like to put on a record, you know?" Rios says. "I loved it." See more of the works below: