Asheville Art Family artist Joshua Marc Levy is a big believer in rock ‘n’ roll karma. Look closely, and you might see it, too.
Levy, an award-winning NYC art director, designer and illustrator, has created album covers, posters and merchandise for an array of familiar musical acts, including AC/DC, the Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes, Modest Mouse and Ozzy Osbourne. But life in the Big Apple was a grind, and trying to get his work shown in a gallery there was very difficult, the Artist only had one solo show and three group shows in 18 years.
“New York is a tough place, and when outside your amazing close circle of friends it can be very anti-social on the streets. I had to learn how to readjust to a social society when moving to Asheville, one of the friendliest places in the country,” Levy remarks during a recent interview at Ben’s Penny Mart.
“If I didn’t experience and brave New York, I wouldn’t have the skills and portfolio I needed to come down here and freely and independently run my own business, working with the caliber of bands I have had the pleasure and luck to work with,” he says. “Every band passes through New York, and so I got to experience a full spectrum of rock and roll; the music, the art, the energy. And I poured my love into this art form and it has come back. We are so grateful that Asheville has such amazing music”
Since moving to Asheville three years ago, Levy has produced artwork for local acts such as The Fritz, Velvet Truckstop, Pawtooth and The Broadcast. He has art on display year round at ZaPow! gallery and gift shop on Battery Park Avenue, and he’s been a regular participant in the upcoming Warren Haynes Christmas Jam Art Show at Satellite Gallery. Levy launched a popular series of 18 postcards and stickers, with about a dozen of them featuring Asheville-centric designs and taglines. They’re top-sellers at the city’s tourism visitors center. Levy created the current Ashvegas logo and the recent local Buskin’ Blues documentary film poster.
And now Levy’s ready for his first Asheville solo rock art show, which is up at Pulp, below The Orange Peel. There’s a grand opening party from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday.
“It was by far the best place we could find after traveling the country. It’s got the music I like. It’s got tons of artists and friendly, creative people… and the food – the food here exceeds the standards in New York City, no matter what anybody tells you,” Levy says.
“And here, you can go see a band or two, with room to groove and breathe, and easily tap into that rock and roll karma,” he added.
Ahhh, that rock ‘n’ roll karma. How does that work, exactly? Here’s an example: 20 years ago, when Levy was catching Grateful Dead shows, the band Traffic opened and he had an eye-opening concert experience that “showed me the path in front of me, my potential in the future. And so I stayed true to that path, and I kept seeing live shows, buying albums, supporting the bands I love, dreaming to be a part of the overall music and concert experience.” Turns out that Dave Mason, one of the founding fathers of Traffic, will be playing a show at The Orange Peel on Saturday, just following Levy’s opening at 7pm.
“So that’s where the concept of rock and roll karma comes from. When you see shows so many times, and you put so much of your energy and love into a band and the room full of fans, eventually it can come back to you, if that is your wish,” Levy says. “When I moved to Asheville I had a much easier time manifesting what I wanted and what I wished for. I could stare out at these mountains and say out loud what I wanted and have it come true a lot of the time.”
Putting out that energy is important, says Levy, especially in light of the changing landscape of the music industry. The artwork once associated with album covers and sleeves has gone by the wayside (the resurgence of vinyl today is tiny in comparison), and fewer people are buying CDs.
“Bands are making their money selling screen prints, T-shirts and merchandise, and not relying so much on the album package. The album cover is still very prominent and important and I enjoy creating them, solving these puzzles. My job has been morphing into creating more and more screen prints and merchandise design these days,” he says.
Levy said he gets a thrill from working with his favorite bands, but he’s especially excited to be working on officially licensed Grateful Dead merchandise (T-shirts, sticker, patches) again. Levy designed the official Grateful Dead video game poster.
“The Grateful Dead created some of the most intelligent music out there and allowed me to discover all these other artists through family channels, by sharing music with friends or following the people who played with them and following those paths, including Chris Robinson and Trigger Hippy’s Joan Osborne, who played with Phil Lesh, Grateful Dead bassist. So it’s all part of the circle,” he says. “After working with Black Crowes on Warpaint, it lead me to all of these amazing bands such as The Band Of Heathens and Buffalo Killers.”
Consider the piece (shown above) that Levy is using as a centerpiece of his new show. It includes classic rock poster imagery – dragons and skulls – but with a dash of the psychedelic. (Note the skull’s “third eye.”) And a Grateful Dead influence, he says, quoting lyrics from Fire on the Mountain:
There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town
Takes a whole pail of water just to cool him down.
“You’ve got a fire dragon hit with water, there are the mountains in the background,” says Levy. “I thought that was great for this Asheville show.”
For Levy, it’s all about sending out what you want to get back.
“If you put a lot of love into something and concentrate on the dream of it, the potential to work in that industry is greater. If you play your cards right, anything’s possible,” Levy says. “There has to be sacrifices in order to see a silver lining. It’s a roller coaster, we do our best and have as much fun as possible.
“That’s what it’s all about: having fun, loving life, making art to marry the music. I wish to work with so many bands moving forward, everyone from Pearl Jam to Iggy Pop, and more of my local favorites including Jeff Santiago & Los Gatos Negros. I will continue to support these bands and this art form.”
If you go:
Asheville artist Joshua Marc Levy’s first solo art show is up at Pulp! under The Orange Peel. A grand opening party for the show, LEVY. SOLO. PULP!, will be held from 4-7 p.m. The event is free, all-ages and open to the public. The Mike Rivers Experience will play a free one-hour acoustic set during the opening around 4:30pm, so get there early. The first 15 people to arrive will receive a free 8×10 archival signed print. The venue will clear the room at 7pm sharp for Dave Mason. The show runs through Dec 31st.
To view Joshua Marc Levy’s art online visit www.AshevilleArtFamily.com.
PULP, 101 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 (828) 398-1837 info@TheOrangePeel.net.