Music and sound offer a path for artists exploring personal and cultural histories and real and imagined spaces. The works here range from the documentary and deadpan to the lyrical, contrasting and harmonizing in unexpected ways.
Robert Morris’s influential 1963 object and recording, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, created a new consideration of artistic process as the artist recorded himself while he made this work. Decades later we are still in the room with the artist, listening to him hammering, sawing, sanding, and taking breaks. The work’s importance is evident in Jonathan Monk’s homage, a vinyl audio record with the misleading title “The Sound of Music.” If you expect songs by the Trapp family, you will be disappointed. Monk’s record plays the sounds made when the record was manufactured.
Isaac Layman’s photograph of a furniture-sized stereo provides a physical connection to the music experience even though the speakers are turned away from us. Alyssa Phebus Mumtaz gives Leonard Cohen’s song lyrics a sensuous presence. Victoria Haven monumentalizes a mixed tape of personal significance. We can also contemplate the primordial personification of a scream, the suggestion of birdsong, and a range of topographies—from the suggestion of backyard aesthetics to more abstract ventures.
The photographs of a Nirvana performance take us back to a historic event, just as Ed Ruscha’s little book of records charts seismic shifts in the music scenes of the 1960s, from Otis Redding and Carla Thomas to Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground.Image: Nirvana, Rajis, Los Angeles 2/15/90, 1990, printed 2010, Charles Peterson, American, b. 1964, Inkjet print, 66 x 44 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2010.19.5, © Charles Peterson.