Over the past decade and a bit Field Day co-headliners Animal Collective have made some of the 00’s most forward-thinking and endlessly experimental music. One thing that has helped unite their genre-defying approach has been the use of Abby Portner’s artwork. Sister to Animal Collective’s own Avey Tare, she has helped characterise the look of Animal Collective, from t-shirts, videos and stage design. Think of an Animal Collective visual and Portner has probably been responsible for it. We were lucky enough to persuade her to share sketches, ideas and images of particularly interesting Animal Collective artwork moments over the years. Part One of our look at those images centers around stage design.
As anybody who has seen Animal Collective can attest their shows can be wild, unpredictable and journey-led. Abby Portner’s stage ideas over the past few years have mirrored the psychedelic approach with some awesome designs.
Here’s a sketch for a backdrop for a run of shows in Australia 2008. The underwater vibe reflects the sound of the recently released Strawberry Jam, with it’s dense textured sound and follow-up EP Water Curses, which led an even more watery sound, particularly on the title-track. Take a look below for the backdrop in action.
Portner got to expand on the underwater theme at a Prospect Park show in Brooklyn that same year. The effect is more layered and ambitious, take a look at an early sketch below and the realisation of the design in following images…
Here’s another embryonic sketch that made it into a larger scale piece of set design. Abby Portner’s “Rockface” was a 2011 design and mirrors the tribal, wild rhythms of the band’s Centipede Hz shift last year. Have a look below for a couple of snaps of the Rockface in action – the first image looks to be an earlier take, which the lower two feature resin crystal bats and stainglass rock face.
Even more recently Animal Collective have been using the mouth imagery that adorned Centipede Hz and Animal Collective Radio. Abby Portner incoporated that into shows too including some of the band’s biggest to date. See below for some planning sketches and the mouth onstage.