FIRST MAJOR AMERICAN RETROSPECTIVE OF VISUAL ARTIST AND MUSICIAN CHRISTIAN MARCLAY'S WORK
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—From September 28 through December 19, the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College presents Christian Marclay, the first in-depth American retrospective of the innovative artist and experimental music performer, organized by the UCLA Hammer Museum and curated by Russell Ferguson, chief curator at the Hammer Museum.
Christian Marclay comprises more than 80 remarkable artworks, from 1980 to the present, ranging from collage and sculpture to installation and video. Marclay's body of work reflects his interest in bridging the gulf between what we hear and what we see and exploring the connection between the two. Among the pieces are Recycled Records (1980–1986), The Beatles (1989), Virtuoso (2000), Guitar Drag (2000), Video Quartet (2002), and a group of photographs on view for the first time. This diverse body of work brings together various disciplines—music, visual art, and performance—that establish Marclay as an artist who confidently spans the realms of music and contemporary art.
This exhibition introduces museum visitors to Marclay's multifaceted work and allows for scrutiny of his artistic development since 1980. Organized loosely by chronology, it includes altered records, album covers that have been collaged and sewn together, monstrous and beautifully distorted musical instruments, and large-scale video works. The exhibition reflects Marclay's use of many different media to explore the associations between the visual and the audible.
"Christian Marclay, as an artist and member of the avant-garde music scene, has continuously explored the process of seeing and hearing music," said Ferguson, the exhibition's curator. "His innovative use of visual and audible materials has resulted in a body of work that is challenging, compelling, witty, and often highly serious."
As a musician and DJ, Marclay began to incorporate scratched, broken, and otherwise altered LP records into his performances in the early 1980s. Recycled Records are radical collages of these reassembled vinyl records. Still playable on the turntable, they were Marclay's first objects to stand alone as visual works of art. The exhibition features half a dozen collages from this early series, as well as other examples of modified records , created later, such as a record with a padlock, one with no grooves, and melted records. In addition to actual LPs, Marclay uses album covers as a medium, resulting in a group of work called Imaginary Records that explores music's social functions.
Marclay has often incorporated objects—such as stereo speakers, telephone receivers, and magnetic tape—into sculptures over the past 20 years. One such work, The Beatles, collected works of the Beatles on audiotape crocheted into a pillow. It is indicative of Marclay's desire not only to present sound in a physical form, but to explore its deeper social meanings. The sculpture reflects the comfort and personal familiarity Marclay and millions of others shared with the Beatles and their music.
Also on view is the installation Tape Fall, in which a reel-to-reel tape player continually emits the sound of trickling water. The player is perched on top of a high ladder, and in the absence of a take-up reel, the tape cascades onto the ground to form a growing mound of magnetic tape. The experiences of both hearing and seeing the tape's trickle become inextricably linked.
Several more recent sculptures take the forms of impossible musical instruments. Altered or grotesquely distorted, these instruments are physically unplayable and instead become suggestive of the monsters that might play them or the wild sounds they might produce. Drumkit (1999) is a complete set of drums and cymbals reaching up to 13 feet on exaggerated stands; Virtuoso (2000) is a 25-foot-long accordion; and Lip Lock (2000) is a tuba-and-pocket-trumpet amalgamation that leaves no room for human lips.
Marclay has begun to further explore his creative themes in video. The 14-minute video Guitar Drag (2000) shows an amplified Fender guitar being pulled behind a pickup truck. As the guitar drags across back roads and dirt trails, it produces a range of cacophonous sounds. Guitar Drag explores the collected mythologies of the guitar, the rural South, and the truck, and Marclay evokes such disparate associations as rock-and-roll guitar smashing and the history of lynching in the South. A central part of the exhibition is the critically acclaimed Video Quartet (2002). This large, four-screen DVD projection joins hundreds of old Hollywood film excerpts that feature actors and musicians making sounds or playing instruments. The result is both a moving visual collage and a musical composition evoking John Cage, hip-hop riffs, and appropriation art. Christian Marclay also introduces audiences to photographs never before exhibited, snapshots that record everyday environments with references to sound or music.
The exhibition next travels to the Seattle Art Museum, (February 5 – May 2, 2004) and Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (June 12 – September 6, 2004). Accompanying the exhibition is an illustrated catalogue with essays by Russell Ferguson; Miwon Kwon, assistant professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles; Douglas Kahn, professor of technocultural studies at the University of California, Davis; and Alan Licht, a musician. This catalogue is the definitive study of Marclay's career to date and will substantially advance understanding of his innovative and influential work.
Christian Marclay is made possible by generous support from Eileen Harris Norton and the Peter Norton Family Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Pro Helvetia, the Arts Council of Switzerland; and Art for Art’s Sake.
On September 28, the day of the exhibition opening, limited free seating on a chartered bus from New York City is available. The bus will leave from SoHo in the morning, returning from the Center for Curatorial Studies in the late afternoon. Reservations must be made in advance by calling the Center at 845-758-7598. Bus transportation is provided through the generosity of Audrey Irmas.
The museum is open to the public, without charge, Wednesdays through Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. An opening reception will take place on Sunday, September 28, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. For further information, call the CCS at 845-758-7598, e-mail email@example.com, or visit the website www.bard.edu/ccs/exhibitions.
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