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What's Up: Robert Landau

Contributed by Doris Helfer

Book cover for Rock n Roll Billboards of the Sunset StripLos Angeles native Robert Landau was clearly a kid destined to become a photographer. In 1969, a young Landau began shooting his first pictures, which were the colorful sights around his Hollywood home. Decades later he rediscovered some of those early Kodachromes, which turned out to be the only extensive photographic collection of rock and roll related billboards on the Sunset Strip.  

In his book, Rock 'N' Roll Billboard of the Sunset Strip, Landau writes that rock-related billboards didn't debut in L.A. until 1967. That was the year that Elektra Records took a gamble on a new marketing strategy to promote a local, up-and-coming band, The Doors. "It led me to an interest in the urban environment,” says Landau. “I'm an urban landscape photographer. I've always thought that L.A. had a very unique look. It's really built around people driving in their cars. And so the billboards, like a lot of the signage and architecture, are really meant to be seen from people's cars." In Rock ‘N’ Billboards of the Sunset Strip, which is Landau’s fifth book, he includes interviews with some of the artists, record producers and designers who were instrumental in creating the iconic billboards. 

Robert Landau
Robert Landau

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Landau has spent the better part of his life photographing and documenting various aspects of the city. Beginning with the Sunset Strip billboards in the nineteen seventies, Landau has compiled a vast archive of images. His photographs depict the unique characteristics of the Los Angeles urban landscape, and reflect the city’s offbeat and unique character. His photography has been exhibited at the Getty Center, Skirball Cultural Center, ARCO Center for Visual Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Brand Gallery, and the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. His work is also on permanent display in a number of prestigious galleries and museums. His work has also appeared in the London Times Sunday Magazine, Rolling Stone, Westways, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Forbes, Time, Progressive Architecture, Newsweek, Industrial Design Magazine, National Geographic and many other well-known publications.

Some images from Rock ‘N’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip were featured online in NPR’s The Picture Show, “A Brief History of L.A.’s Billboard Art,” December 3, 2012. Landau’s previous books include Billboard Art (1980), Outrageous L.A. (1984), Airstream (1984), Hollywood Poolside (1997), and Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, CA from the exhibition "Trouble in Paradise" which was part of the Getty's "Pacific Standard Time" initiative, 2012.

The Friends of the Oviatt Library will host a buffet luncheon, presentation, and book signing with Robert Landau on Friday, April 15, from noon – 2:00 p.m., at the Orange Grove Bistro located on the CSUN campus. The price of this event is $20.00, and free parking is available in the G1 parking lot. For more information about this event, or to make a reservation, please call (818) 677-2638, or visit the Exhibitions & Events page on the Library website. Persons with disabilities needing assistance and Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons needing interpreters, please call the above number in advance for arrangements.