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Geoff Moore, “Heart Shaped Box #1” (2007) (all images courtesy Geoff Moore)

In 2007, the Estate of Kurt Cobain commissioned Los Angeles–based photographer Geoff Moore to shoot the objects that the late Nirvana frontman left behind — relics like black Converse sneakers, a broken marionette, shreds of smashed guitars, a stuffed monkey holding a tambourine, and piles of cassette tapes. Taken over the course of one day, when these objects were moved from a high-security vault to a studio, Moore’s photographs first appeared in the 2008 book Cobain Unseen by Charles R. Cross. Now, large-scale prints from the shoot are on view at KM Fine Arts.

Geoff Moore, “Endorsement – Cobain’s Converse #1” (2007) (click to enlarge)

Like many other artistic homages to emerge from the cult of Kurt, these photographs only add to the mystique and mythology surrounding Cobain’s stardom and death at 27. Together, they amount to a kind of two-dimensional shrine, especially thanks to some overtly religious imagery: a Madonna figure and three plastic infants lying in a velvet-lined suitcase and a heart-shaped box filled with rosaries, dried petals, and silver crucifixes. But even the more mundane objects — a Converse sneaker with the word “Endorsement” written in marker on the toe, a pile of journals — are presented as somehow mystical, floating and floodlit against white backgrounds. 

Moore’s photographs join other posthumous Cobain-related projects — from the publication of his personal journals to the HBO documentary Montage of Heck — in feeling intrusive and voyeuristic, like you’re poking around in a dead man’s closet without his permission. And when they’re commercialized, as these are, that intrusiveness can feel almost exploitative. Given that the public’s obsession with Cobain’s private life has always rivaled the love of his music, however, these qualities can perversely make the photos all the more captivating. Even if they don’t reveal anything new about the artist — at this point, most every detail of Cobain’s story has been publicized and dissected and conspiracy-theorized to death — they’ll still, no doubt, be studied for clues, for ways to feel connected to the human behind the hagiography. 

Geoff Moore, “Madonna Box” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “Hi-Flier” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “The Journals” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “friends…in my head #1” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “The Promise” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “Nixon Now” (2007)

Geoff Moore, “Smashed” (2007)

The Tapes, 2007

Geoff Moore: ENDORSEMENT – the unseen COBAIN photos continues at KM Fine Arts (814  N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Grove, Los Angeles) through March 26. 

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

3 replies on “Photographs of the Relics Kurt Cobain Left Behind”

  1. Hello momotara,
    May I ask you to explain me what do you mean by “no art here” ?
    I wish you a good and creative day where you like to be

    lours
    lours-postal.tumblr.com

  2. This assemblage of detritus from Cobain’s life feels exploitative. It’s not as though a micro-assessment of trash he left around is going to lead us to any big insight into his already overly analyzed life. It’s not going to bring him back. There are no “ah ha” moments here. Kurt made some great music and extremely bad decisions. That’s it.

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