LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.- Until August 31, 2003, the UCLA Hammer Museum presents the exhibition Christian Marclay--the first in-depth retrospective by an American art museum of the innovative artist and experimental music performer. The exhibition comprises over 60 remarkable works, created 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 in exploring the social context that joins the two.
Among the works to be included are Recycled Records (1980-1986), The Beatles (1989), Virtuoso (2000), Guitar Drag (2000), Video Quartet (2002) and a group of photographs shown here for the first time. This diverse body of work brings together a variety of disciplines-music, visual art and performance-that establish Marclay as an artist who confidently bridges the realms of music and contemporary art.
After its debut at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Christian Marclay will travel to Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (September 28 - December 19, 2003); the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (February 5 - May 2, 2004) and the Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (June 12 - Septeber 6, 2004).
"Christian Marclay, as an artist and member of the avant-garde music scene, has continuously explored the process of seeing and hearing music. His innovative use of visual and audible materials has resulted in a body of work that is challenging, compelling, witty and often highly serious," said Russell Ferguson, the exhibition’s curator and chief curator at the Hammer Museum.
This large-scale exhibition will introduce Museum visitors to Christian Marclay’s multi-faceted work and allow for close scrutiny of his artistic development since 1980. Organized loosely by chronology, it comprises notable works such as altered records, record covers that have been collaged and sown together, monstrous and beautifully distorted musical instruments, as well as large-scale video works. The exhibition reflects Marclay’s use of many different media to explore the connections between the visual and the audible.
As a musician and DJ, Marclay began to incorporate scratched, broken, and otherwise altered records into his performances in the early 1980s. Known as Recycled Records (1980-1986), they are radical collages of broken and re-assembled vinyl records. Still playable on the turntable, they were Marclay’s first objects to stand alone as visual works of art. The exhibition features a half-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 records, Marclay began to use album covers as a medium, resulting in a group of work called Imaginary Records. Drawing on a vast collection of album covers and modifying them, Marclay began to explore the way music functions socially. Notions of nostalgia and sexual stereotypes are exposed in the smart and visually powerful album-cover collages from his Body Mix series. The exhibition includes seminal works such as Doorsiana, 1991; Footstompin’, 1991; and Slide Easy In, 1992.
Marclay has used many media to create a variety of sculptures during the past 20 years, often incorporating familiar objects such as stereo speakers, telephone receivers and magnetic tape. One of the most evocative of these works is The Beatles, 1989. Included in the exhibition, this sculpture uses the collected works of the Beatles on audiotape crocheted into a soft pillow. It is indicative of Marclay’s desire to not only present music or sound in a physical form, but to explore their 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, 1989, in which a reel-to-reel tape player continually plays a recording of trickling water. The player is perched out of reach 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.
More recent sculptures take the forms of impossible musical instruments, and several examples are included in the exhibition. Altered and grotesquely distorted, these instruments are now 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, a tuba and pocket trumpet amalgamation that leaves no room for human lips.
Marclay has recently begun to further explore previous creative principles and themes in new works using video. The 14-minute video Guitar Drag, 2000, shows an amplified Fender guitar attached to a rope being pulled behind a pick-up truck. As the guitar drags across back roads and dirt trails, it produces a range of cacophonous musical sounds that often correlate to what is seen. 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 sound or playing instruments. The result is both a moving visual collage and a musical composition evoking John Cage, hip-hop riffs, and appropriation art.
The exhibition introduces audiences to a group of photographs Marclay made over the last decade and never before exhibited. These seemingly banal snapshots record everyday environments with references to sound or music.
The exhibition is organized by the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and curated by Russell Ferguson, chief curator at the Hammer Museum. Accompanying the exhibition is a fully-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 will be the definitive study of Marclay’s career to date and will substantially advance the understanding of his innovative and influential work.