In Bloom: The Nirvana Nevermind Exhibition was an art exhibition celebrating 20 years since the release of 'Nevermind', held in London at The Loading Bay Gallery on Brick Lane, hosted by Idea Generation, from September 13th-25th 2011. This exhibition included many personal items and memorabilia such as a hoodie worn by lead singer Kurt Cobain for a Melody Maker photoshoot, tour posters, a piece of fretboard from one of Kurt's guitars, rarely seen photographs and more. Featuring photography by world renowned artists Steve Gullick, Martyn Goodacre, Matt Anker, Steve Double, Tony Mottram & Tony Woolliscroft.

Nirvana -

An Introduction

Nirvana were an American Rock band formed in 1987 in Aberdeen, Washington, and were and and still are one of the biggest influences to alternative rock and modern rock culture the world has ever seen. With their unique raspiness and raw energetic reckless presence, Nirvana quickly became a global phenomenon; after signing with DGC records in 1991 following with their release of second album Nevermind that same year, the band catapulted to stardom with their first hit single, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Although the band did not expect this single and album to become renowned, that's exactly what they had achieved. During their three years of being a mainstream band, they successfully won 12 awards, those being a Brit Award, AMA, Grammy Award, two NME Awards and seven MTV Video Music Awards. There was something different about this band, and due to their booming sound, with raspy and melodic vocals and live performances filled with chaos and thrashing instruments, there's no surprise they have sold over 75 million records worldwide. Another attribute contributing to their widespread success is the time and era of their emergence. During the 80's, hair metal was heavily popular, with musicians like Eddie Van Halen, Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi (to name a few) Nirvana's huge combination of gut wrenching distortion, explosive drums and rebellious attitude, with pop melodies and juxtaposing lyricism, they were something new that shifted a whole era.

Along with their music conveying themes of isolation, repression, sexism, violence and controversial outspokenness, Nirvana balanced these dim and depressing topics with a snide and anti-industry playfulness, especially during their performances. One notable display of this is their Top Of The Pops performance on November 25th, 1991. The band were asked to perform to a backing track of their single 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', with Kurt's vocals being the only live instrumentation in the entirety of the show. The band was stunned by this, and proceeded to humiliate MTV and use their appearance as a mockery and satire of it. Along with their new wave of rock fusion and unique presence, this boomed their popularity and started new conversations, and for those who maybe didn't know of the band who just tuned into the show, its controversy and teasing nature made more of a name for the band; with countless hits and number one albums like Nevermind and 'In Utero', Nirvana, even after their departure, have gifted us with decades of inspiration and raw, unfiltered Grunge.

a few of the photographers

Pictured is Kurt Cobain of Nirvana in black and white film, sitting leisurely on a sofa playing his electric guitar.

Steve Gullick

Steve Gullick is a music photographer whose prolific force has dominated the industry for almost thirty years. With pristine and cinematic images, he has photographed and created imagery for many established musicians and bands such as Blur, Björk, White Stripes, The Prodigy, Radiohead, as well as of course, Nirvana, along with many others. His crisp and precise black and white portraits and expanding experimentation is something to be marvelled at, hand printing his own work and putting in sheer dedication. His work is very reminiscent of his childhood, with Steve harking his style of photography back to his childhood love of being in the dark, stating "When I was a kid, pretty much all I did was sit in the dark, listening to music, drawing pictures. That aspect of me now is the same. I love the darkroom, with music on – it’s brilliant."

Martyn Goodacre

Martyn Goodacre is a highly regarded and much respected British photographer, who has shot many profound musicians from Nirvana to The Stone Roses, with his work being featured in magazines such as Q Magazine and NME. His photography is greatly inspired by the political unrests of society, especially London, and civilisation under gentrification, poverty and bigotry. Capturing everyone from gypsies, punks, squatters and new aged travellers, he wanted to snapshot the history of these people and capture how society has slowly pushed them so far and "often over the cliff". He photographed the good, bad and the ugly, and conveyed how he had experienced it through his lens. The wide variety in his black and white photography is what makes it so exciting and stand-out, from capturing those who banded together despite the disparity to "live, eat, demonstrate, perform and create", to the most iconic bands like Nirvana, with his classic portraits.

Exhibition Summary

Nirvana: The Nevermind Exhibition was the definition of an immersive experience. With the inclusion of contributions from fans themselves, it wasn't just a visual time machine to 1991, but in fact the UK fans could include their own work such as photos within the exhibition, creating such a beautiful environment for those who have such a deep connection and love for the band. Alongside this, the exhibition showcased an array of items such as memorabilia, artefacts and photography, from portraits to original clothing and instrumentation. As well as this, this exhibition included replicas of the bands instruments, with an exact replica of Kurt's Fender Jaguar guitar, and a selection of lyrics and vintage posters, t-shirts and more. Nirvana treasured their connection with their UK fans, and for them to have been able to include their own personal moments and history with the band in this exhibition brought a whole new level of excitement to the exhibition and most importantly. to the dedicated die-hard fans of Nirvana. As well as this, including written lyrics, clothing and Kurt's actual piece of fretboard from one of his own guitars just made this event that much more remarkable, because it made sure viewers could experience so much more to Nirvana, having a first-hand look and examination of exceptional memorabilia for only a limited amount of fans to see, for only 2 weeks.

Alongside the opening of this incredible exhibition, there was a complete re-release of the Nevermind album, with configurations ranging from a 4-CD/1-DVD Super Deluxe Edition to a standard digital/CD re-master of the original album, the 20th anniversary reissue of Nevermind makes the most of the occasion, unearthing literally dozens of previously unreleased recordings, obscure B-sides, alternate mixes, radio sessions, studio rarities and live recordings, including a 1991 Halloween concert at Seattle's Paramount Theatre in it’s entirety. For those that attended this exhibition, being at the forefront of Nirvana's genius and creative minds was truly a day to never forget. In addition to all the glory and literal Nirvana treasure this event displayed, to include a Q&A portion as well as receiving fan contributions transformed this exhibition from good to noteworthy; this exhibition encapsulated the brilliance of Nirvana, and involved such passionate fans to be a part of their historical legacy.

In Bloom: The Nirvana Nevermind Exhibition opened from September 13th to September 25th, 2011 at The Loading Gallery on Brick Lane, London.

Blog by Libby Mitchell