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Sound and Vision: Circuit, Tube, and Prism

Bryson Brodie, Kevin McMahon, Matt Phillips, Stephanie Pierce, Galen Richmond, and Gideon Bok

Jan 9, 2009 – Feb 21, 2009
In the Main Space
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Curated by Gideon Bok

Sound and Vision: Circuit, Tube, and Prism is curated by Gideon Bok as part of SPACE’s annual “Artists Curating Artists” series. Basing the show around the idea of refraction of sound, electricity and light, Gideon has brought together two sound artists, Galen Richmond and Kevin McMahon, and three painters, Bryson Brodie, Matt Phillips, and Stephanie Pierce, to promote a dialogue based around this concept.

Curator’s statement:

Sound and Vision: Circuit, Tube, and Prism revolves around the idea of an analogous re-presentation of visual and musical media through refraction.

The microphone functions as a diaphragm that conducts sound waves through a magnet that then transforms the signal into electricity. This electrical signal moves through a mirror image transformation through a magnet to another diaphragm – the speaker. The resulting sound is made expressive through what happens along that electrical pathway (AKA: signal). The electronic signal is manipulated by circuits, capacitors and tubes that manipulate, alter, or interpret the signal before it is articulated through the speaker. This can either take the form of a subtle but expressive harmonic distortion (harmonic distortion is the effect that makes a “dry” electric guitar sound become fully realized and shimmery even if still “clean sounding”) or a dramatic transformation of the tone, timbre, or phase of the signal to create otherworldly sounds.

Within the paint surface, a somewhat similar refraction takes place in terms of light. On the particulate level, the pigments in the paint refract the light differently, depending on the specific pigment’s surface makeup. The photons (light particles) break apart (refract) upon hitting the surface of the pigment particles, which absorb some of the refracted colors and reflects different colors back to the viewer. A clear expression of refraction is the illustration of the prism, which bends the direction of the white light while breaking the photons apart into a clear and focused rainbow of color.

These ideas are expressed in different ways for each of the artists in this show. The viewer becomes the performer in Galen Richmond’s piece. His or her footsteps give rise to the sonic expression of the piece through the use of contact microphones. This sound is further manipulated by the visitor’s movement in the space, picked up through light sensors, which send a signal to alter the sound. Kevin McMahon’s sound installation also provides a clear illustration of the relationship between the diaphragms on either end of the signal chain. In Stephanie Pierce’s paintings, the idea of refraction is expressed through the notion of her visual perceptual interpretation of a space and her responses to this space through the painting process. An ephemeral pictorial space results due to this interaction and interpretation. Bryson Brodie’s work employs an interplay between abstract color, music, and mysterious references to tangible space, effecting a poetic construction of pictorial space influenced by his musical interests. Finally, Matt Phillips’ paintings involve large explorations of light refraction, comparing the divisions between colors in visual language to the divisions between vowel sounds in spoken language.

About the Artists:

Galen Richmond’s work represents an interface between music, art and performance and seems to erase (or deem irrelevant) a line that divides the three practices. Through the practice known as ‘circuit bending,’ Galen manipulates the circuitry of found vintage Casio keyboards and effects pedals to create extraordinary sonic artworks. Galen is a musician, artist and longtime resident of Portland, ME. He plays under the moniker Computer at Sea and recently performed NYC’s The Bent Festival, where his glitchy analog pop tunes, derived from modified toys and keyboards, won him praise from the Village Voice.

As a recording engineer and musician, Kevin McMahon spends a lot of time repairing and manipulating sound equipment. He is currently working on an interactive sound piece made of found objects. The piece will involve construction of unlikely objects wired to create feedback loops of sound generated by the presence of the viewer. Kevin has been mixing live sound, engineering, and producing music in NYC and across the country since the early nineties. He attended University of Maine in Augusta and University of Southern Maine, where he studied Jazz and contemporary music and attended the Institute of Audio Research in New York where he studied record production and technology. Most recently, Kevin has been the sole proprietor of Marcata recording studios (founded by the band The Walkmen, formerly located in Harlem, now based in New Paltz, NY). Kevin’s main focus is to search out and develop new talent and nurture the (lost) art of translating the life of performance and the communication of emotion into a recorded medium. He has engineered, produced, and/or mastered records by The Walkmen, The Mooney Suzuki, and The Felice Brothers, among many others. For years, Kevin was the chief sound engineer at Brownies in NYC. A few of the acts he has worked with include The Secret Machines, Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Ray Davies, Joey Ramone, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, Jesse Malin, Palace Brothers, yo La Tengo, Blonde Redhead, Foetus, Shellac, Sonic Youth, Mercury Rev, DJ Shadow, and the Flaming Lips. Kevin recently joined the team at West West Side Music as a mastering engineer and head of technical operations. As a musician, Kevin is involved with his solo project The Pelican Movement.

Stephanie Pierce’s crafted paintings convey the atmosphere, formal sensibility, and material poetry of Philip Guston’s high modernist paintings of the 1950s, though her paintings are rooted in perception, often using her bed as subject matter. Her work seeks a meaningful intersection between perception, abstraction, and fragmentation using the phenomenon of light, space, and form as personal metaphors. Stephanie was born in Memphis, TN. She earned her MFA from The University of Washington in Seattle, her BFA from The Art Institute of Boston, and attended The Yale Norfolk Summer School of Art. She has shown in Boston, Seattle, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland where she is represented by Wynn Bone Gallery. She currently teaches at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Matt Phillips approaches painting through several simultaneous avenues, as both object and illusion. His work is formal but lyrical, quirky yet familiar and references various visual sources, including textiles, mosaics, pattern painting, and op-art. Matt is originally from Roanoke, Virginia. He received his undergraduate degree from Hampshire College, Amherst, MA and his MFA in Painting from Boston University in 2007. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Hampshire College since 2007. Matt has exhibited in New York and Boston. He was recently in a two-person show at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC.

Bryson Brodie’s paintings consistently employ a muted tertiary color palette that is understated, mysterious, and powerful. Although heavily rooted in abstraction, Bryson’s paintings often have an elusive and surprising narrative, which unfolds and grows deeper over time. Bryson is a New York based painter who graduated from Bowdoin College. Bryson founded Plane Space in New York and has continued to paint but has not yet shown his work widely.
About the Curator:

Gideon Bok is a painter and farmer living in Camden, ME. He received his BA from Hampshire College and his MFA from Yale University and is currently represented by Plane Space in New York and Alpha Gallery in Boston. Selected awards include: Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Fund Purchase Award, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and CMCA Biennial Best in Show. Gideon has taught painting at Hampshire, MeCA, USM, and the Yale Norfolk Summer Program and has been a visiting artist/critic at the New York Studio School, Mass Art, MICA, Boston University, University of Washington Seattle, and Bowdoin College, among many others.