I just got back from checking out a gallery show called “Beautiful Burnout: The Art of Underworld.” The impetus behind the exhibition is to treat art-making like a musical jam session, but the results are planted firmly in the art campground rather than in hybrid territory. Actually, it’s quite refreshing to have a show “about” music that isn’t your typical sound art thing. Here, artists who create music and images are mixed like a perfectly dressed tossed salad. Things feel loose and thrown around—a little music over here, a guy painting on the floor over there—and that’s okay because to separate, say, all the carrots, olives, and cucumbers out on the plate is silly because when you serve it, the person eating is going to mix it all around anyway. There’s no need to parse out one particular element to enjoy the whole.
Judging from the Jacobson Howard Gallery’s list of artists (a pantheon of blue chip staples, i.e. snoresville) this unwieldy type of show is more than likely something new to them, something to wassail while the “real” collectors are away in the Hamptons. Whatever the case, it’s an interesting experiment that allows gallery visitors (and online visitors—yes, there’s a live Webcam here) see the creative process in action or, on the other hand, witness the doldrums of painting and drawing. Either way, the artists are on display as much as their work, performing, if you will, for an audience. Actually, some of the artists will be performing—music that is—at the star-studded All Points West festival this weekend under their known moniker Underworld, hence the title of the exhibition. It’s funny that a group with enough clout to open for Radiohead can futz around in a gallery, open to the public, all day long without any hassles—we won’t be seeing antics like these from Britney Spears, although you never know.
If you do drop in to say hello to the Underworld crew during gallery hours, revel in the moment when the elevator door opens to reveal the space. The video projection that immediately confronts you, titled “Push” by Graham Wood (it’s a reworking of a scene from his music video for Underworld’s “Push Upstairs”) kind of sums up the supposed boundary between visual art and music: In slow motion a man vigorously runs towards the camera, leaps into the air diving forward, crashing through a large pane of glass headfirst, which only becomes visible as it shatters. The scene is repeated again and again from various angles. It’s really quite beautifully shot. And it begs the question: if you’re breaking barriers, in art or music, is there really any need to be so dramatic about it? The exhibition certainly doesn’t pay attention to any particular boundaries, so maybe they’re only there if we choose to notice them.