John Cale didn’t spend very long in the Velvet Underground. Four years after he co-founded the band in 1964, Lou Reed unceremoniously kicked him out.
“It was undisciplined art,” he said while surveying “The Velvet Underground Experience,” an exhibition about the famously influential rock group that opened on Wednesday at 718 Broadway. “It was very energetic and frivolous and enjoyable.”
The two-story, 12,000-square-foot exhibition is finally arriving in the band’s hometown, mere blocks from the group’s original Lower East Side rehearsal space, after transferring from Paris, where it was seen by 65,000 visitors, according to organizers. Like the band, it’s unruly, with blaring concert footage competing for attention with pornographic videos and kaleidoscopic posters. Black-and-white footage flashes across dozens of screens; solemn voice-overs are nearly drowned out by throbbing live-concert audio amid towering visual homages to filmmakers, painters and classical composers.
Cale is the only surviving member of the group’s original lineup (the drummer Maureen Tucker joined eight months later). Over the weekend, he walked through the still-unfinished exhibition, stopping in front of displays that triggered recollections of the whirlwind era: “There are a flood of memories.”