Pixies Album Art Designer Vaughan Oliver Dead at 62
Vaughan Oliver, the visual artist and graphic designer behind the Pixies' eclectic and colorful album covers, as well as those of Bush, Lush, The Mountain Goats and many more rock artists, died at the age of 62 on Sunday (Dec. 29).
Oliver was the artistic mastermind behind all seven Pixies studio album covers, ranging from the band's 1988 full-length debut Surfer Rosa through the outfit's recent trio of comeback efforts, Indie Cindy (2014), Head Carrier (2016) and Beneath the Eyrie (2019).
As reported by both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, the artist died peacefully among family. His death was first revealed on Twitter by fellow graphic designer Adrian Shaughnessy, who co-edited a recent retrospective of Oliver's work entitled Vaughan Oliver: Archive.
Over a career spanning nearly 40 years, album covers by many musical performers associated with the 4AD record label got the Oliver artwork treatment, including releases by The Breeders, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. But the artist is perhaps best known for his association with the Pixies, which he once recalled was more of a partnership between him and the band's frontman Black Francis.
"It was generally Charles Thompson [singer-guitarist aka Black Francis] who I worked with, and it was usually always professional," Oliver shared in an interview with Design Week in 2016. "We got off on the right foot and shared a similar dark sense of humor."
Of his inspiration for the work, he added, "There are so many images in Pixies songs it was a dream. I never had to take anything literally — other than 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' — and even that song's about something completely different; a hole in the ozone layer."
By Monday (Dec. 30), numerous musical artists came forward with fond recollections of the album cover designer and offered condolences for Oliver's family. The Pixies, former Lush member Emma Anderson and The Mountain Goats each paid tribute to the designer on Twitter. (See them below.)
"He didn't thrust his ideas onto the artist," Anderson shared amid other remembrances of Oliver and his work. "They were carefully considered, and the images were inspired by the music."
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