the Backroom



Carlotta Hester and ‘The Pure Drop’

by Chris Murray on August 3, 2020  |  39 Comments »

Ireland’s Anglo-Celt newspaper, publishing since 1846, recently featured a story about Carlotta Hester’s just-released book of live-action drawings of traditional Irish music artists called The Pure Drop. This book celebrates the 10th anniversary of the All Ireland Music Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. Here is that story and some visuals from The Pure Drop.

July 16th, 2020 by Thomas Lyons

During the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012, American artist Carlotta Hester made over 150 drawings in County Cavan. Each a rendering of traditional Irish musicians, singers, and dancers captured at the height of their creative flow.

Tommy Peoples, Co. Donegal, Fiddle
Ed Reavy Tribute Concert, Cavan Crystal Hotel, Cavan

Now the artist has gathered a selection of her drawings in a beautiful publication called The Pure Drop.

Chris Murray is the publisher of the collection: “It occurred to me that the 10th anniversary of the Fleadh was this summer and that it coincided with the staging of the Ulster Fleadh in Cavan. I thought it would be great to mark that by publishing Carlotta’s wonderful live-action drawings. Even though the Ulster Fleadh is canceled, we felt that because the drawings are timeless we would go ahead with it.”

Hester’s drawings are created directly from life while listening to the music in every festival setting: street sessions, theatres, dance classes, pub sessions, masterclasses, outdoor concerts, cross-border gatherings, and more.

Bernadette Nic Gabhann, Co. Limerick, Fiddle
Johnston Library, Cavan

The impact of the experience on the artist and the publisher is apparent when Chris speaks of the time: “Those three summers were an extraordinary time for us. We had never been to an All Ireland Fleadh before and the experience was just magical.”

The book features musical artists from all over Ireland, Scotland, England, and the United States. The sketched portraits include fiddlers Tommy Peoples and Oisin MacDiarmada, harpist Catriona McKay, and lilter Seamus Fay.

The Pure Drop is a celebration of the artistry of deep-rooted Irish traditions which continue to thrive today: “We have to thank Martin Donohoe. He was our Irish music guru.”

Martin Donohoe, The Wind That Blows radio show,
Northern Sound Radio Station, Cavan

The book is very much a Cavan publication: “I had the book printed in Cavan at Harvest Moon in Killeshandra. It is very much a celebration of coming home and discovering traditional music and being moved by its artistry.”

Fintan McManus, Co. Fermanagh, Guitar
Farnham Arms, Cavan

Carlotta Hester has exhibited in Washington DC, Ireland, and Cuba. She combines her art practice with art teaching, and has been the art teacher at the prestigious Maret School since 1994.

The book will have an official launch on Sunday, August 9 in The Farnham Arms Hotel at 3:00 pm. It will celebrate the book and the 10th anniversary of the 2010 All Ireland Fleadh in Cavan.

The Pure Drop cover, by Carlotta Hester.

The pure Drop is available in Ireland at cavanmusiclive@gmail.com and in the United States at popart@govindagallery.com.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Govinda Gallery’s 45th Anniversary

by Chris Murray on July 7, 2020  |  174 Comments »
Andy Warhol, Self Portrait, 1966.

This summer marks 45 years since we first opened our doors in 1975 in Georgetown. I want to express my deep appreciation to all the extraordinary artists who have exhibited their work with Govinda Gallery over the past 5 decades. Thank you!

Janis Joplin, Pearl, 1970. Photograph by Barry Feinstein.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Protest is Patriotic: David Fenton’s SHOTS

by Chris Murray on July 2, 2020  |  39 Comments »

It was fifteen years ago this year that SHOTS, a book of David Fenton’s political demonstration photographs, was published. I was introduced to Fenton by my friend, the photographer, archivist, and teacher, Lely Constantinople. Together we edited and published SHOTS (Earth Aware Editions, 2005). I organized an exhibition of Fenton’s photographs in April 2005 at Govinda Gallery to launch the book.

Fifty years later, many of the people I see in demonstrations today remind me so much of the spirit captured by David Fenton in his book SHOTS. I’m sure significant books will be published from these days, of these times.

Entrance to the Fort Dix stockade, New Jersey, October 12, 1969
Two boys at a rally in support of Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale and other Panthers, New Haven, CT, May 1, 1970
Black Panther Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, a co-defendant in the Panther 21 case, speaks at a rally in support of the Panther 21. Co-defendants Afeni Shakur (mother of Tupac Shakur) and Jamal Joseph stand to his left and right. New York City, April 4, 1970
Policeman in riot gear during “Honor America Day” (note the tear gas in his shirt.) Washington, D.C. July 4, 1970
Women demonstrators outside Fort Dix, a major transshipment port for U.S. Army soldiers leaving for Vietnam, October 12, 1969
A crucifixion tableau during an antiwar rally, Washington, D.C., May 9, 1970

I would often see this demonstrator at antiwar rallies up and down the East Coast. It was profoundly moving to see him quietly depict the crucifixion in the midst of very passionate demonstrations.

Protesters arrested during the Days of Rage, Chicago, IL, October 11, 1969
John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the “Free John Sinclair” rally, in support of Sinclair, a White Panther and manager of the band MC5, after his arrest for giving two joints to an undercover police officer. Jerry Rubin is playing congas. Ann Arbor, MI, December 10, 1971
Allen Ginsberg at a rally in support of the Black Panther Party, New Haven, CT, May 1-2, 1970

Allen Ginsberg was my spiritual and political mentor. He remains one of the greatest American poets of all time. He was a remarkable activist with a brilliant intellect. I chanted mantras with Ginsberg in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in the early 70s as he played his harmonium and I played a dulcimer. On another evening, I was tear-gassed while chanting by Ginsberg’s side on the street outside Lisner Auditorium as antiwar and social justice demonstrators were being confronted by the police. Chuck Berry was performing at the same moment inside the auditorium as the tear gas was shot in front of us and behind us. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. In the chaos, people began to flee the auditorium as the tear gas was finding its way into the concert.

The photographer David Fenton at the Liberation News Service offices, New York City, May 21, 1970
SHOTS is available on amazon.com.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Happy Birthday Daniel Kramer!

by Chris Murray on May 22, 2020  |  3 Comments »
Mimi + Richard Farina in picture frame/Woodstock NY 1965.

Today is photographer Daniel Kramer’s birthday. I’m not sure how old Daniel is because he would never tell me his year of birth! His photos are timeless. When I first started championing significant photographs documenting musical artists, Daniel Kramer was at the top of my list along with Alfred Wertheimer. I thought of both of them as having done monumental work with Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley.

Though known throughout the world for his photos of Bob Dylan, including the covers of Bringing it All Back HomeHighway 61 Revisited, and Biograph, this photo above of Mimi and Richard Farina, taken in Woodstock, New York in 1965 is one of my favorites of Daniel’s. There are so many things about this photo that I love.

Happy birthday Dan!

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Astrid Kirchherr 1938-2020

by Chris Murray on May 20, 2020  |  8 Comments »
John, George, and Stuart at HH Fair in Hamburg. Photo by Astrid Kirchherr.

Everyone at Govinda Gallery loved Astrid Kirchherr and her photographs. We presented her work in exhibitions in over thirty cities across America. Our association with her, and her Hamburg circle, has been a rare and wonderful pastime, with an enduring legacy. John Kelly’s story in The Washington Post this past Wednesday is a fine look at it all, with added images from Govinda Gallery.

There’s a Washington connection to late Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr

May 19, 2020

Story by John Kelly

Astrid Kirchherr never visited Washington, but a Washingtonian was destined to play a big part in the life of the German photographer, who died on May 12 at age 81. Kirchherr’s pictures of the early Beatles captured a band forging itself in the crucible of Hamburg.

“Astrid’s photos really are the best early photos,” said Chris Murray, who runs the Govinda Gallery from his home in the Palisades.

The gallery is online now, but it once had a bricks-and-mortar shop in Georgetown, and in 1994, Murray began hosting shows of art and photography by figures connected to the Fab Four’s early days in Hamburg.

Hamburg. Mixed media on paper by Stuart Sutcliffe.

In 1960, the Beatles were the Not-Quite-So-Fab Five. Liverpool artist Stuart Sutcliffe played bass. He had already decided to quit the band and paint full time when he met Kirchherr.

Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe. Photo by Astrid Kirchherr.

Stu and Astrid fell in love. He asked that she cut his hair like hers: a mop-like shag with bangs. And she took the Beatles to a Hamburg fair ground and posed them for photos that showed their gritty side: a band on the brink.

How did Murray wind up knowing Kirchherr, whom he visited every other year in Hamburg?

“The missing link, the person really central to all of this, is Brian Roylance,” said Murray.

Brian Roylance at Friar Park. Photo by Chris Murray.

Roylance was the founder of Genesis, a British publisher known for sumptuously illustrated and handsomely bound limited-edition books. In the early 1980s, Murray saw a brief item in Rolling Stone magazine about “I, Me, Mine,” a book by George Harrison that Genesis had published.

“I love George Harrison, so I bought two copies,” said Murray, a music fan and Georgetown University graduate. (He was involved in a notorious incident in 1968 when a man in a chicken suit stormed the stage of the Washington Hilton during a Jimi Hendrix concert.)

I, Me, Mine cover and slip-case. Genesis Publications Ltd.

Impressed that someone would buy two copies of a pricey import, Roylance visited Murray’s gallery when he was in Washington and convinced him to distribute Genesis books. That would grow to include “Liverpool Days,” a book of photos Kirchherr took with Max Scheler on the set of “A Hard Day’s Night.”

“That’s how Astrid knew me. I was the distributor for her books in America,” Murray said. “It was bigger than Astrid, if you will. It was the whole Hamburg scene.”

Liverpool Days cover and slip-case. Genesis Publications Ltd.
The Beatles on the set of A Hard Day’s Night. Photo by Max Scheler.

Murray also came to represent Klaus Voormann, who created the cover of “Revolver” (and played bass with Manfred Mann and others); Juergen Vollmer, who shot the photo on the cover of John Lennon’s “Rock ’n’ Roll” album; and the late Sutcliffe, who died in 1962 of a brain hemorrhage.

Elvis McCartney. Pen on paper by Klaus Voorman.
John Lennon, Doorway. Photo by Jurgen Vollmer.

For a while, Sutcliffe’s entire artistic estate — his drawings and paintings — were in a storage facility in Landover.

The 1994 movie “Backbeat” — featuring Sheryl Lee as Astrid and Stephen Dorff as Stu — told a lot of this story, rekindling interest in how the Beatles became the band we know. In Hamburg, the Beatles performed epic sets at venues like the Star Club and the Kaiserkeller for a motley audience. The band loved American rock and roll, but they were equally intrigued by the black-clad Kirchherr and her artistic, existentialist friends.

“Both the Beatles and the Hamburg culture were rebelling against the traditional mores and they happened to meet over rock and roll,” Murray said. “Each helped the other. Perhaps the Germans seemed more sophisticated. The Beatles offered a lot, too: the music. They were fresh for each other. It was a mutual admiration they had.

“It was a moment that couldn’t be choreographed. There was a lot of serendipity there.”

Kirchherr was present at the creation.

“Astrid personally was so sort of moved by the whole episode, she stopped taking photographs after that,” Murray said. “When she was young, and with Stuart, she had worked in a photo studio and did other terrific photography, mostly of musicians. But after that whole experience, she didn’t really continue as a photographer. It’s one indication of how powerful that moment was.”

Astrid Kirchherr and Chris Murray in Hamburg, 2017. Photo by Carlotta Hester.

A very special thank you to Kai-Uwe and Julia Franz, Gibson Kemp, Ulf Kruger, and Pauline Sutcliffe.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Little Richard: The Architect of Rock & Roll

by Chris Murray on May 13, 2020  |  4 Comments »
Little Richard onstage at the Star Club in Hamburg by Siegfried Loch, 1963.

My own rock & roll DNA rests on two pillars, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. I was fortunate to be old enough to collect and play 45 rpm singles by Little Richard and Elvis in 1956 and beyond.  It was hypnotic to see Little Richard’s Specialty Records label, and Presley’s RCA label, spinning around and around on my 45 rpm turntable, while at the same time listening to this mesmerizing music coming out of the speaker. It was my baptism into rock & roll, and what a great one it was. They remain, to this day, my favorite musical artists.

Little Richard always had the best band, and it blew my mind. And he was the star of the show, as well as the bandleader. Big time! His music, singing, and performing were beyond good…they were the best. Nothing came close.

Little Richard backstage at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium by Jim Marshall, 1971.

I have exhibited images of Little Richard frequently at Govinda Gallery over the years. The previous image by Siegfried Loch in 1963 was part of our exhibition “Hamburg Days.” Thanks to my friend Ulf Krüger for introducing me to that photograph. The photo above by the legendary music photographer Jim Marshall was in the traveling museum exhibition, “Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock & Roll Photography,” co-organized and curated by Govinda Gallery. It is a remarkable image of Little Richard in 1971.

Little Richard was the first to challenge sexual stereotypes in rock & roll. David Bowie, Prince, The Rolling Stones, Boy George, Rod Stewart, Marilyn Manson, Queen, The New York Dolls, and so many other great musical artists of the rock genre owe a massive debt to Little Richard.

Little Richard by Barrie Wentzell, 1972.

I have always loved this photo of Little Richard at the piano looking into the lens of Canadian photographer Barrie Wentzell. He could bang on the piano like no one else! His gospel and soul roots in his vocals were like none other. With his voice, musical genius as a songwriter, style, and charisma, he surely is The Architect of Rock & Roll.

 I saw Little Richard and his band on January 21, 1972 at the Kennedy Center, around the time of this photo, and it was one of the greatest concerts of my lifetime. It was too exciting not to go to the front of the stage, which was not an easy thing to do at the Kennedy Center. What a great vibe.

Little Richard etching by Ronnie Wood, 1987.

In December of 1987, I hosted Ronnie Wood’s first exhibition in America. It was a grand time, and this etching by Ronnie was in that first exhibition. I still have it. Little Richard was also the DNA for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. No doubt.

It was a great pleasure for me to assist my friend Donovan in 2013 while he was recording his beautiful country-inspired album Shadows of Blue. Donovan’s first hit “Catch The Wind” was released in America on Hickory Records, a Nashville label. John Sebastian joined us and it was a great time.

One late afternoon I got on the elevator at the hotel we were staying in, across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There was a gentleman in a wheelchair directly in front of me as I got on, facing the opposite direction. He was accompanied by three strong-looking men who eyed me as I got on the elevator, almost as if they were saying, “do you really need to get on this one.” The five of us filled the elevator. I heard the older gentlemen make some remarks as we were heading down. The voice was unmistakable…no other like it. I spoke out “Is that you Richard?” as I still could not see his face. His head slightly turned my way and he said, “Yes…of course it’s me!!” As we continued down I excitedly told him I worked with Donovan and we were here in the hotel while he was making an album. I then said, “Do you remember Donovan?” He replied, “Of course I remember Donovan!!” As if I was a fool for asking, because who would not know Donovan. I loved being gently chastised by my hero….it made my day. I went on to introduce him to Donovan in the hotel lobby later that evening. A great moment indeed. It turned out Richard was living in the hotel, and the others accompanying him were nephews and a son.

Though I had seen Little Richard in concert several times in my life, to have that moment in the elevator with him was very special. And to bring two musical masters together was a great pleasure. God Bless Little Richard.

These artworks are available through Govinda Gallery at www.govindagallery.com.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Donovan, David Lynch and Riki Tiki Tavi!

by Chris Murray on May 7, 2020  |  1 Comment »

Leave it to Donovan to release the best album of these times, Eco-Song, a compilation of 21 tunes written and recorded by Donovan with the theme of climate change and the environment.  Starting with his smash hit “Riki Tiki Tavi” in 1970, and with songs from all of the last five decades, there is not another major musical artist with such a commitment to our environment in his songs.

Eco-Song is presented with his wife Linda and is dedicated as a tribute to Greta Thunberg, “to raise awareness of climate change.”  Among my favorites are “Slow Down World,” “No Hunger,” and “Diggin The Future Now.” You can go to Donovan’s website and listen to samples of each song on the album, as well as his lyrics. This album could not be more timely.

Eco-Song Album Cover by Donovan & Linda.

Last week The Sunday Times published a story about Donovan and his dear friend and collaborator, the filmmaker and artist David Lynch. They are raising funds together to offer meditation classes to frontline Covid-19 workers who develop PTSD during the pandemic. Donovan said that “Meditation helps manage deep trauma.” Here is a link to that story.

David Lynch and Donovan.

Sunday, May 10th, is Donovan’s birthday! What an amazing year it has been for Donovan, with the release of three albums: Jump In The Line: A Tribute to Harry Belafonte, Joolz Jones & The Jukes: Blues Tribute to Brain Jones, produced by Donovan, and the just-released Eco-Song. Donovan was also honored by Lana Del Ray’s cover of his classic “Season of the Witch” which has over 3 million views on YouTube, as well as The Raconteurs covering “Hey Gyp” as the first single on their latest album. Happy Birthday, Donovan…and more to come for our Sunshine Superman!

Donovan’s Sapphographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Here Comes The Sun

by Chris Murray on May 5, 2020  |  1 Comment »

Though written by George Harrison 50 years ago, the lyrics and music to Here Comes the Sun remain as meaningful today as ever before, in a way perhaps more so. This beautiful watercolor by the British artist Keith West was commissioned as an illustration for George Harrison’s two-volume set of song lyrics, Songs By George, published by Genesis Publications.



Here Comes The Sun is available as a limited edition lithograph, signed and numbered by George Harrison and Keith West.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

The Longer I Live the More I Have to Worry

by Chris Murray on April 30, 2020  |  Comments Off on The Longer I Live the More I Have to Worry
Image by Carl Titolo.

These days Richard Lewis’s Reflections from Hell (powerHouse Books) seem prescient. The one above very much so. Carl Titolo’s image accompanying Lewis’s reflection is brilliant.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

The Vietnam War, Coronavirus, and David Burnett

by Chris Murray on April 23, 2020  |  4 Comments »
An American soldier reads a letter from home, while taking a break from repairing a tank tread. Lang Vei, South Vietnam, March 1971. Photo by David Burnett.

This week the number of deaths from coronavirus in the United States surpassed the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. This pandemic took less than three months to reach the number of fatalities that took ten years during that war. A very somber thought.

American soldiers of the 1/7 Battalion of the 1st Air Cavalry, near Xuan Loc, north of Saigon, South Vietnam, December 1971. Photo by David Burnett.

These compelling photographs were taken fifty years ago by David Burnett. They remain a profound reminder of that heartbreaking time in our nation’s history.  Burnett is one of the finest photojournalists of our time.

US troops at comedian Bob Hope’s Christmas show in Phu Bai. Thua Thien Hue province, South Vietnam, December 1970. Photo by David Burnett.

David Burnett’s photographs are represented by Govinda Gallery.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   
© 2008 Govinda Gallery.  Proudly powered by WordPress.  Website Design by Cary Scott Additional design by Anna Jacoby.