Reaching Nirvana

Grunge Photography Seduces Morrison Hotel Gallery

Chris Cornell ©Lance Mercer/Morrison Hotel Gallery Kitsap County, Washington Lollapalooza, 1992

BY: Jes Zurell

Fuzzy guitars stringing you along through the process of accepting that there is no happy ending.

Gritty locks, fragrant with sex and salt from the night before. Ashy air curling from the cherries of a thousand chain-smoked cigarettes. Spellbinding yet angry, proud but imperfect–there are dozens of words to describe a ‘90s band, and the only one that matters is the one said with the most feeling.

Morrison Hotel Gallery reveres the kings and queens of Seattle’s grunge scene–including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Hole–in Grunge: Rise of a Generation, opening Friday, March 8, 2019 at all three gallery locations. The curators sought to “[shine] retrospective light on a teenage riot’s coming-of-age,” and they didn’t miss a single cue.

Those rebellious singers with their soul-sad eyes were not hoping for one single second that anyone would swoop in, with preened little angel wings akimbo, to save then from their corybantic lifestyles. They snarled without apology, and it would be foolish to speak of them as broken little lambs who succumbed to their addictions. So we’re not going to do that.

Consider this your reminder of who Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell were before they passed into whatever other dimension fringes this one, before we started speaking about them in past tense, when all they could do was cope with a fatally flawed world.

This is your evidence of mass impermanence–of the whiskey-soaked joy of beautifully belligerent boys with flannel shirts, guitars, and a bone to pick with society. Of wiry women careening through their own mortality with fishnets and a snarl.

This is proof of how many ways there are to howl an honest story.

At the end of the night, all that’s left to say is, Goodnight, Seattle. We still love you.

Eddie Vedder singer of Pearl Jam wearing sunglasses
Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, by Danny Clinch. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

kurt cobain grunge photo in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Cambridge, MA, 1990. By J.J. Gonson. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Courtney Love playing with Hole in NYC in the '90s
Courtney Love, New York City, 1995. By Bob Gruen. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Soundgarden '90s grunge band
Soundgarden, by Karen Mason-Blair. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Eddie Vedder onstage with Pearl Jam in Italy
Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Italy, 2006. By Danny Clinch. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Chris Cornell, late singer of Soundgarden
Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, by Karen Mason-Blair. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Late singer of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, wearing a hat
Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, by Karen Mason-Blair. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Kurt Cobain onstage in Los Angeles 1993
Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Los Angeles, CA. 1993. By Henry Diltz. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.

 

Kurt Cobain backstage
Kurt Cobain, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Image courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY.