The vinyl destination

Vinyl records have been a focus of Trevor Schoonmaker's life for years, especially in recent years.

Schoonmaker, who is curator of contemporary art at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art, has been busy putting together "The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl," an exploration of the culture of the medium.

"The Record" features 41 artists from around the world and has work spanning a half-century. Vinyl serves as raw material, touchstone and inspiration in the exhibit's sculptures, drawings, paintings, photos, videos and sound work in a display that's wide-ranging and immense fun. After its Nasher run concludes in February, "The Record" will show in Boston.

"The Record" features works both iconic and obscure, with a few artifacts. Probably the most recognizable piece is David Byrne's Polaroid photo-montage of himself and his Talking Heads band mates, which served as the cover for Talking Heads' 1978 album "More Songs About Buildings and Food." No matter how well you know the cover, it's startling to see it blown up to life-size.

The Nasher commissioned two works for this show. "Celestial Vessel" is a 17-foot canoe that artist Satch Hoyt built out of RCA Victor Red Seal 45-rpm singles. Xaviera Simmons' "Thundersnow Road, North Carolina" is a series of landscape photographs.

Several pieces will also remain in the Nasher's permanent collection. Dario Robleto's "Lion or Lamb" is a series of imaginary, richly detailed album covers, while Carrie Meae Weems' "Ode to Affirmative Action" is a faux-gold record certificate.

"Records are almost obsolete in terms of their viability as a mass-produced product," Schoonmaker says. "But artists have never abandoned vinyl. It's such a great object to work with - the physicality, the warmth of the crackling sounds...."

"A record is like a mini time capsule. It records a moment in history, then there's a personal history when someone plays it, inscribes their name on the cover or scratches up the album."