Kurt Cobain at MTV event in 1993 (photo: Alice Wheeler)
Kurt Cobain at MTV event in 1993 (photo: Alice Wheeler)

Kurt Cobain remains one of the most intriguing figures in rock ‘n’ roll, a shooting star who came and went in a flash, leaving behind an amazing legacy.

In Seattle, he rose from modest beginnings to become the colossus of grunge. Cobain’s death in 1994 was the biggest news event in Seattle music history. Read about Cobain’s private memorial at a church near Denny Park on April 10, 1994, several days after his death.

The Nirvana front man is the subject of “Kurt,” a multi-media exhibit opening Thursday (May 13) and continuing through Sept. 6 at the Seattle Art Museum. The exhibit touches on such themes as freedom, desire, loss and longing through paintings, photography, sculpture, video and sound. (A complementary exhibit of Andy Warhol works is titled “love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death.”)

“Titled simply with the musician’s first name, ‘Kurt’ will test the rocker’s ascendance into the pantheon of one-named American superstars such as Marilyn and Elvis,” the Seattle Art Museum says on its Web site.

” ‘Kurt’ will reveal the extent to which his music and biography continue to exert a strong pull on our collective consciousness.”

Writes curator Michael Darling: “Most of the works date from 1994 and after, clearly suggestiing that Kurt’s death motivated these artists, and so many others, to come to terms with his legacy.

“What is truly amazing, however, is how recent a lot of the work is, as Kurt’s story continues to be relevant, meaningful and far-reaching. It is so clearly resonant in the Northwest, but it is also a global phenomenon.”

Kurt Cobain sculpture by Scott Fife, courtesy of the artist
Kurt Cobain sculpture by Scott Fife, courtesy of the artist

Featured artists and photographers include Alice Wheeler, Scott Fife, Charles Peterson, Elizabeth Peyton, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Gillian Wearing, Slater Bradley and Daniel Guzman, among others.

For the exhibit’s opening week, curator Darling will offer an introduction to the exhbit, followed by a lecture by Seattle’s Charles R. Cross, author of the 2001 Cobain biography “Heavier Than Heaven,” a New York Times bestseller. The event begins at 7 p.m. Friday (May 14). Tickets: $8 adults ($4 members, $6 students and seniors) at any SAM ticketing desk. To order by credit card, call the box office at 206-654-3121.

Read former Seattle Post-Intelligencer book critic John Marshall’s interview with Cross at the time “Heavier Than Heaven” was published.

The photo at the top of the page shows Cobain at the taping of MTV’s “Live and Loud” concert special in 1993. Pearl Jam was also scheduled to perform, but canceled when singer Eddie Vedder called in sick. Read about it here.

The photo was a gift of Clinton T. Willour in honor of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle (copyright: Alice Wheeler).

The second photo is of an archival cardboard, glue and screws sculpture by Scott Fife. It’s from the collection of Theodore M. Wight, courtesy of the artist (copyright: Scott Fife).

Watch the famous video of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song that brought the band explosive fame.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was published by Gene Stout.)

What do you think of Cobain’s legacy as a rock musician? You can comment below.

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