Critics’ Picks

Mark Todd, Just a Funny the in the Crowd, 2017, acrylic on wood, 12 1/2 x 12 1/2".

Mark Todd, Just a Funny the in the Crowd, 2017, acrylic on wood, 12 1/2 x 12 1/2".


Mark Todd

Webb Gallery
209 W Franklin St
April 9–June 2, 2017

For his solo exhibition “Don’t Go to Hell Without Saying Goodbye,” Mark Todd has tweaked the aching sentimentality of crooner ballads, as well as blues and American standards in the vein of Dean Martin, Bobby Rush, and Johnny Mercer to make humorous illustrated album covers. The results of Todd’s topsy-turvy wordplay with songs and band names seem nearly authentic but land just beyond the believable, wittily employing amalgams of lyrics to form titles you almost think you know.

The acrylic-on-wood LP covers are rendered in a scrappy, cartoonish style somewhere between King of the Hill and Raymond Pettibon, and, for all of their tongue-in-cheek vagaries, their compositions and palettes are skillfully nuanced. Tracks listed in the illustrations include “I Keep Going in Your Out Door” from the album Just a Funny the in the Crowd; “Everybody’s Something Sometime (But Not This Time)” on the album Tender Trap; and “You Are The Reason I Can’t Get a Job” by the Back Up’s (all works 2017).

Todd’s cannily chosen textual motifs act as phantom signifiers for songs never written and never heard that nonetheless act as nostalgic sound tracks for personal histories. Today the physical album is all but a corpse, picked apart by the digital epoch, with many songs discarded into the boneyard of iTunes. In this age’s art world—full of step-and-repeat backdrops and Instagram posts—Todd balances jocularity with affection for a less self-conscious bygone era, while his off-kilter versions of the endangered originals provide a consuming viewing experience reminiscent of the enjoyable hours many once spent flipping through vinyl in record stores.