Because Sonic Youth has a long practice of using the works of contemporary artists on their covers - think Raymond Pettibon on Goo and Gerhard Richter's photorealist Kerze ("Candle") on Daydream Nation - these visual artists have reached wider audiences. Meanwhile, the band has distinguished itself by championing living, working visual artists. A new exhibit, "Musical Moves," at Rice University's Media Center features works by Christopher Wool, who did the cover art for Sonic Youth's 2006 Rather Ripped. The show pairs him with German painter Arnold Oehlen and focuses on these artists' thick relationship with modern music as well as ephemeral forms like posters and cover art.
Since the opening reception last night was at Rice, we of course heard a brief lecture by curator John Corbett, whose slideshow offered us examples of what we were missing in this show -- namely original paintings by artists who self-identify as painters -- and what we were seeing instead, examples of ephemera that illustrate their thick relationship with contemporary music.
And we heard a wild and eclectic mixtape including songs by Sun Ra, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Suicide, Child Abuse, as well as examples of dub reggae, free jazz and no wave.
Without the lecture, it might have been difficult to ascertain the significance or meaning behind the works on view. Christopher Wool's early, groundbreaking, text-based works are recalled in his later posters, text-heavy announcements for art shows layered over printed photographs of his own paintings, a sort of "remixing" that characterizes much of Wool's later career. Wool describes his most recent paintings as "improvisations."
Arnold Oehlen also adopts musical strategies into his works, and he has painted one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-reproduced "posters" for artists he admires. He and Wool both regularly title their paintings after songs and musicians they admire. In the exhibit, we see several examples of Oehlen's cover art for CDs and LPs, including Houston's own The Red Krayola, in which Oehlen at one time played the synthesizer.
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"Musical Moves" is on view at Rice Media Center, Entrance #8 at University Blvd. and Stockton St., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m, until October 14.