Julian Lennon has been a rock star and an international celebrity. But he has also quietly been making a career detour over the past decade. He has been taking photographs, often while on the road, resulting in several gallery shows and presentations at art fairs.
Recently he debuted his work at Restoration Hardware (RH), the upscale furnishings store in the US, both online and in select stores, through an arrangement with General Public, the fine arts publisher founded by the former actress Portia de Rossi.
Their factory in Carpinteria, California, a small beach town just south of Santa Barbara, is a spacious 20,000 sq. ft space, the central area dominated by three very large 3-D printers, with spare but tasteful offices lining the street side. “My interests as an artist have always been not only in audio, but visual art as well,” says Lennon, the first son of John Lennon. “I just never really had the opportunity to go there before. Ever since sort of becoming an independent artist 20 years ago, and just doing my own thing, I was able to broaden out with my creative ideas.”
Armed with a camera, sometimes a Leica, he takes pictures whenever he finds something striking; the photographs in the RH collection are mostly landscapes and travel moments. Midtone Mood (2014), for example, captures moody layers of clouds, taken as he arrived in Kenya for the first time.
“This was taken just before touching down in a small plane, barely clearing the mountain tops,” he recalls. “I saw beautiful landscapes all around me, the clouds being part of that.”
Sometimes a bit of whimsy or incongruence stops him. The subject of Casa Blanca (2018), taken in Havana, Cuba, is a public rest stop boasting a sign reading “Casa Blanca.” He was intrigued, he says, by “The fact that it was called Casa Blanca and not the ‘Casablanca’ I remember—a very classic film.”
De Rossi was introduced to Lennon’s work by an art consultant, and was struck by his distinctive eye. She immediately knew she wanted to sign him on. “I like to see something that is really thoughtfully constructed,” she says. “When I look at work, I look at composition and execution, obviously. With Julian's work, I saw the most perfect mix of everything, like a moment captured, that [also] seemed spontaneous.”
She started General Public five years ago, after deciding to leave behind her acting career. The company's focus has been on high-quality reproductions of fine art, mostly paintings, which are sold through its website. 3D printing makes possible extraordinarily true-to-original textures, she points out, and it allows more people to own art. All the work it offers is personally chosen by her.
The Lennon photographs will be shown at select RH stores, but they can also be ordered online. Open editions and unsigned, the works are very large, running four to seven feet wide with frame; regular prices run from around $2,700 to $6,200. Lennon says he has not given up the music gig, though; his new album comes out next year.