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Looking at Music: Side 2 Explores the Creative Exchange Between Musicians and Artists in NYC
Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988), Untitled. 1981. Oilstick on paper. 40 x 60" (101.6 x 152.4 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fractional and promised gift of Sheldon H. Solow, 1991. © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art presents Looking at Music: Side 2, a survey of over 120 photographs, music videos, drawings, audio recordings, publications, Super 8 films, and ephemera that look at New York City from the early 1970s to the early 1980s when the city became a haven for young renegade artists who often doubled as musicians and poets. Art and music cross-fertilized with a vengeance following a stripped-down, hard-edged, anti-establishment ethos, with some artists plastering city walls with self-designed posters or spray painted monikers, while others commandeered abandoned buildings, turning vacant garages into makeshift theaters for Super 8 film screenings and raucous performances. Many artists found the experimental music scene more vital and conducive to their contrarian ideas than the handful of contemporary art galleries in the city. Artists in turn formed bands, performed in clubs and non-profit art galleries, and self-published their own records and zines while using public access cable channels as a venue for media experiments and cultural debates.

Looking at Music: Side 2 is organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and succeeds Looking at Music (2008), an examination of the interaction between artists and musicians of the 1960s and early 1970s. Looking at Music: Side 2 is on view from June 10 to November 30, 2009, with an accompanying film series in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters to commence in September 2009.

The exhibition spans numerous forms of media by a diverse group of artists including: drawings by Patti Smith and photography by Dan Graham, Nan Goldin, and Jimmy DeSana; experimental video by James Nares; issues of influential zines and magazines including Search & Destroy, Interview, and Punk; posters designed by Adrian Piper and Collaborative Projects, Inc. (Colab); prints by Jenny Holzer, Betsey Johnson, and Bern Boyle; music videos with songs by Blondie and Suicide; record covers designed by Kim Gordon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Raymond Pettibon; music from Television, The Ramones, and Talking Heads; and live band footage from performances at Max’s Kansas City.

Barbara London states: “This exhibition shows how musicians and artists coalesced at a time when New York City, while financially struggling, seemed to incubate innovative ideas and facilitate the phenomenal success of a few, marking the transition into the next, more commercial decade of artists in New York City.”

Outside The Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery, Looking at Music: Side 2 is introduced through a title wall designed by the New York artist Laurie Anderson. Within the exhibition James Nares’s video, Game (1975), greets viewers at the exhibition’s entrance. Active in the 1970s on the Lower East Side as a Super 8 filmmaker and member of The Del-Byzanteens, Nares concocted a percussive, imaginary board game, performed with Seth Tillett, which he turned into the subject of his experimental film. Nares’s work is accompanied by a monitor displaying segments from Glenn O’Brien’s late 1970s Manhattan Public Access television show, TV Party. Equal parts party, talk show, video art, concert, and political action, TV Party took live television to a place it had never been before, including interviews with a number of the artists included in the exhibition. Also on display are drawings by Patti Smith and an audio station playing her song Hey Joe/Piss Factory (1974), considered to be the first punk rock record and funded by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Two tracks from The Ramones, widely cited as the first punk rock group, play at a nearby audio station, including “Beat on the Brat” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976). In vitrines, poetry from the musician Richard Hell and a record from the German artist Martin Kippenberger’s short-lived musical project with Christine Hahn and Eric Mitchell are on display.

The exhibition next focuses on the work of New York based Colab, a non-profit artist collective distinguished for political engagement and the co-opting of public spaces, including an abandoned building in the heart of Times Square in 1980. In a set of video monitors, works from Colab artists are on display, including Coleen Fitzgibbon, a founding Colab member and instigator of the Times Square Show, which housed socially themed artworks in a derelict Times Square building. With a background in 1960s structuralist cinema, Fitzgibbon’s Super 8 film transferred to video, Time (1975), is a nonstop visual flow of headlines and text, all drawn from an issue of Time magazine, with the effect of an incessant restlessness of the filmic frame. On a nearby monitor, the music video Frankie Teardrop (1978), set to the New York-based band Suicide, is on display. This coarsely-textured film-video hybrid combines super-imposed projector manipulations and high-end video post-production. An insightful collaboration between videomaker Paul Dougherty and Art-Rite zine editors Walter Robinson and Edit DeAk, the work interprets a strident song by Suicide about a poverty-stricken Vietnam vet pushed to the edge. These works are surrounded by posters, audio, and a video by Judith Barry, Richard Kern, and the New York band Sonic Youth and the work of Beth and Scott B.

Looking at Music: Side 2 next examines the cross-influence of hip hop and art in New York City, including the video of Rapture (1981) by Blondie. Rapture, the first video to incorporate elements from rap on MTV, opens with choreographer William Barnes dancing in a white suit and top hat in New York’s Upper East Side. Barnes is joined by Debbie Harry and her bandmates—easy-going, cross-over artists who bridged uptown and downtown scenes. In the final sequence of the music video, the band dances down a street passing Fab 5 Freddy and graffiti artists Lee Quiñones and Jean-Michel Basquiat in action. The video is accompanied by photographs of Basquiat’s graffiti work from the 1970s, by Peter Moore and Stephanie Chernikowski, and a large-scale drawing by the artist, Untitled (1981).

The exhibition concludes with images from five rock n’ roll photographers. Adjacent to a large-scale photographic collage of the work of Bob Gruen, adapted from the 2007 installation Rock and Roll Teenager's Bedroom and measuring 7.5’ x 22.5’, the exhibition includes vitrines with photographs of Suicide by Godlis and Sonic Youth by Stephanie Chernikowski, along with additional photographs by Roberta Bayley and Marcia Resnick. On a monitor beside these works is Bob Gruen’s New York Death Cult (Live at Max’s Kansas City) (1976), featuring grainy footage from famed music club Max’s Kansas City, which captures the raw, immersive spirit of up-and-coming musicians of that era such as Patti Smith.

Museum of Modern Art | Lee Quiñones | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Blondie | Talking Heads | Television | The Ramones | Sonic Youth |

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