The show is an interesting hybrid. It includes archival posters, photographs and mementos from the AACM and related jazz musicians, as well as the visual art they created. But it also features the work of contemporary artists inspired by the AACM and its legacy — such as the day-glo geometric patterns of Lisa Alvarado, an artist and musician who plays in Johsua Abrams’ Natural Information Society. Alvarado’s banners are on the band’s album covers (including the excellent recent release Magnetoception) and they hang behind the group as its performances. Also featured are some of Chicago artist Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. Highlights of the archival items include Art Ensemble of Chicago bandleader Roscoe Mitchell’s incredibly elaborate drum set.
AACM founding member Phil Cohran performed in the MCA’s fourth-floor space next to the exhibit on July 10, when the museum hosted a press opening — I am belatedly posting my photos now from that event. On the following day, July 11, the MCA opened its doors to the public for free as the exhibit opened, and several musicians performed, including Mike Reed with his group People, Places + Things. Over the next few months, the MCA will host more performances and events related to the exhibit; see the MCA’s website for details.
My recap of Solid Sound 2013, continued from blog posts 1, 2 and 3…
The Solid Sound festival also featured rousing soul music by the Relatives; rootsy jamming by White Denim; harmonic pop by Lucius (who were most impressive when they guested with Wilco); Miracle Legion founder Mark Mulcahy doing solo music, with J. Mascis playing guitar in the back part of the stage; a nice set of solo singer-songwriter music by Sean Rowe; and singer-songwriter Sam Amidon playing quiet songs in the vein of Nick Drake as well as more traditional Appalachian folk, with Beth Orton (his wife) joining in for one song. Marc Ribot and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo played a terrific set of their “Border Music,” and Brazil’s Os Mutantes playing songs from its new album Foot Metal Jack (which I’m not so keen on) but also some of its classic psychedelic tunes. And as mentioned in Part 2, the fest closed with a strong set by Medeski Martin & Wood, supplemented by various guests.
Watching all of the music, I missed most of the comedy cabaret hosted by Hodgman, though the portion I caught — featuring Hodgman and Jen Kirkman — was hilarious and eccentric.
In between the concerts, I stopped into MASS MoCA’s galleries and saw a few of the most striking and memorable artworks I’ve experienced in a while. The Chinese artist Xu Bing’s Phoenix, a pair of hundred-foot-long mythical birds constructed out of debris, is hanging from the ceiling in a room the size of an airport hangar. (And Xu Bing’s remarkable super-wide-screen animated film The Character of Characters was screening in another room.) Another gallery displayed a thousand or so miniature paintings that Tom Phillips created on the pages of an obscure Victorian-era novel, W.H. Mallock’s A Human Document. I could have spent many more hours examining these fascinating pictures. And then there was an entire building devoted to the paintings of minimalist Sol LeWitt. Now, I must confess here that I am unenthusiastic and generally bored by most minimalist art. When I see a big canvas covered in one color of paint, my typical response is, “Big deal.” So I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of seeing all those LeWitt paintings. But there was something damn impressive about seeing all of them assembled in the three floors of this building. Taken as a whole, they became more like a weird piece of architecture.
All in all, Solid Sound lived up to its name. It’s an inspiring model for how to run an arts festival — although it’ll be hard to emulate elsewhere, because how many other places are there like MASS MoCA?
Read more about Solid Sound and see more photos in Parts 1, 2 and 3
The new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, explores how artists use their studios and how the studio environment influences their art. It’s called “Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out,” and it’s up through May 30.
At the press event that kicked off the show, I recorded comments by a few of the artists and curator Dominic Molon. Here’s a video with a few of those sound bites, along with photos of the exhibit. (This video is a little experiment. I’m playing around with different ways of documenting stories and events.)
… One thing you won’t hear about in my video is the wonderful piece of paranoid narrative art by Deb Sokolow, “You Tell People You’re Working Really Hard On Things These Days,” which she plans to change as the exhibit goes on. It’s in the front lobby of the MCA.