Are you kidding me? It’s almost too perfect. Jessicka Addams (formerly of the underappreciated band Jack Off Jill) had an idea. What if she gathered together iconic giants of Pop Surrealism and asked them each to pick a song, then asked them to create art inspired by that song. It’s such a simple idea, yet so pre-loaded with emotional resonance. I have yet to meet a serious artist who didn’t have a deep and profound relationship with music. It just doesn’t happen.
What happens when Gary Baseman paints a piece on the foundation of the Velvets classic “Pale Blue Eyes”? You end up with something that has a hushed, delicate grace that is uncharacteristic of his usual work. Yes, Gary has a vulnerable side.
Elsewhere, Tara McPherson tackles Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” in miniature, forcing you up close (always in control, that lady). Christine Wu imagines jackknife Johnny, from Patti Smith’s “Land”, as the devilish man-child Pan. Fairuza Balk goes for the big statement transforming Debussy’s “Nuages” into a Walkman and headphones calcified with rust. Mark Ryden naturally chose a song about Abraham Lincoln. Rodolfo Loaiza conjures up a Snow White who is secretly a cutter in Jack Off Jill’s own “Strawberry Gashes.” Not to mention Frances Bean Cobain’s deftly animated take on the Jesus & Mary Chain track “Black”.
Ultimately though, music is an intensely personal thing. Songs get fused into our very atoms. So, when Camille Rose Garcia (easily one of my top five living artists) paints “Los Angeles”, the signature song by X (a band I have branded into my flesh), well, it damn near makes me weep. She does that to me a lot.
Yet, the work that had the biggest impact on me was from Lindsey Way. She took on a monster of a song, Bright Eyes’ “At The Bottom Of Everything”. Before you hear the first note of music in that song, Conor Oberst tells a story about strangers on a plane. The plane is about to plunge 30,000 feet into the ocean, and as it descends, one of the strangers tries to comfort the other by singing a little tune. A guitar kicks in and the man sings about birthday parties, plunging into dark caves. He sings about setting suns, lonely oceans, and wonderful splashes. He never tells us how it all plays out. Lindsey Way does though. The terrified woman in the song emerges as fragile, wisps of paper, slightly yellow with age. Her dress and hair crack in brittle ribbons forming little sailboats that encircle her. She is a ghost. She is nowhere, and she is now. It is a remarkable work of art.
If you missed this show, or were overwhelmed by the crushing throng of scenesters that descended upon the space last night, don’t fret. Dark Dark Science MiXTAPE LA will be on view at LeBasse Projects Chinatown through August 28, 2012.
Art is a MiXTAPE text by Keith Ross Dugas – Photos by Lee Joseph except article thumbnail photo of show curators Jessicka Adams and Brian Wakil by Cindy Schwarzstein.