David Muller at work, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

It took the Los Angeles artist [David Muller] a week to install the sprawling rock ‘n’ roll-inspired mural “As Below, So Above” in the ICA’s lobby. Filled with text, watercolor brushstrokes, and framed portraits of record-sleeve spines, the piece is a departure from the previous mural in the lobby, Chiho Aoshima’s playful anime-inspired “The Divine Gas.” Muller’s installation, commissioned by the ICA, comes with a soundtrack, a constantly playing rotation of 136,125 songs. The playlist put together by the onetime DJ – he still does a wedding here or there – is designed to run for 399 days without repeating a tune…

A central component of the mural is not Muller’s creation. It is a chart chronicling the advance of rock ‘n’ roll over two decades starting in 1955. Reebee Garofalo, now a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, created the text by studying record sales charts and translating them into the swirling design, which traces how the Kingston Trio led to Bob Dylan, how Fats Domino paved the way for Stevie Wonder. The chart was published in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here to Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry,” a now out-of-print book Garofalo coauthored with Steve Chapple in 1977. (A poster of Garofalo’s chart can be purchased in the ICA store and online.)

To illustrate his view that rock history is an organic living entity, Muller has painted Garofalo’s chart in black watercolor and surrounded it with a kind of rock garden on the ICA wall. It’s a landscape seen in cross-section, with trees, grass, and autumn leaves, as well as an underground area in which Muller has placed a tribute to Sun Ra.

“Somehow, I’m just trying to relate that all the different kinds of music are connected somehow, the same way an ecosphere is connected,” Muller says. “I’m also trying to figure out how you deal with history and the future.”

Geoff Edgers
Boston Globe

The will will be on display at the ICA for one year.