Alan Licht

  • Alan Vega

    AS THE 1960S DISSOLVED into the ’70s, the late Alan Vega made two transitions: from painter to light sculptor, and from visual artist to rock vocalist. After an epiphanic experience witnessing Iggy Pop in concert in 1969, he teamed up with Martin Rev to form Suicide. The notorious New York duo was equally provocative and prescient, setting the pace not only for punk but for the electropop and EDM movements by stripping rock instrumentation down to a keyboard, drum machine, and vocals. One of Suicide’s first gigs took place at Lower Manhattan’s OK Harris gallery in 1970, alongside an exhibition

  • Raymond Pettibon

    IN RAYMOND PETTIBON’S HANDS, the pen does double duty—writing and drawing, verbalizing and depicting.This could explain why his massive five-decade survey, aptly titled “A Pen of All Work,” includes only three paintings on canvas. The majority of the more than seven hundred selections on view—which represent a fraction of the estimated twenty thousand works made by Pettibon to date—are his trademark pen-and-ink drawings on paper, which push the medium’s capacity to encompass both line work and protean wordplay. Handwritten texts, ranging from pithy statement to ranting paragraphs,

  • Martin Creed’s “The Back Door”

    SINCE THE BEGINNING of his career, Martin Creed has numbered rather than named his pieces, starting, cryptically enough, out of order, with Work No. 3, 1986, instead of No. 1. This numbering scheme recalls but also plays with the convention of classical composers’ chronological “opus” system, hinting at Creed’s roots in music. In fact, Creed learned to play guitar and violin in his youth and later formed Owada, a rock trio that put out just one album, Nothing, in 1997 (several of its songs were titled with numbers, with lyrics involving counting). After turning primarily to visual art for the

  • Anri Sala

    Occupying three floors of the New Museum, and fully energizing exhibition spaces that can ordinarily feel disproportionate, “Anri Sala: Answer Me” traced the reorientations within the Albanian-born video artist’s practice. The survey, which was organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Margot Norton, and Natalie Bell, was dominated by work from the past decade, when Sala’s ongoing ruminations on past versus present—initially expressed in a more-or-less straightforward documentary form—moved toward more elliptical studies of sited music renditions.

    The large-scale installations reorganized

  • Matmos’s Ultimate Care II

    SINCE THE LATE ’90s, the electronic duo Matmos have brought together musique concrète and dance music in singular, arch fashion, crafting ebullient tracks from audio samples that frequently exhibit a penchant, descended from industrial music, for grisliness: Materials they’ve wired or otherwise manipulated to produce sound include a human skull, a goat spine, a cow uterus, and the neural tissue of a crayfish. On Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey), released in February, they have narrowed their scope to a Oulipian degree, deriving all audio from exactly one, notably nonbiological, component: the

  • Wallace Berman

    WALLACE BERMAN (1926–1976) truly embodied the “mesh between poetry and music and visual arts” that San Francisco–based artist Bruce Conner once described as being at the root of the exuberant atmosphere of midcentury California. Berman was a pioneer of assemblage, perhaps best known for his systematic Verifax collages of a right hand clutching a transistor radio, its speaker replaced by various images appropriated from print media. Many of his other works manifested his interests in language and Jewish mysticism, with Hebrew letters painted on parchment and rocks. As a young man he had made firm

  • Cybernetic Serendipity Music

    THE OPENING of “Cybernetic Serendipity” on August 2, 1968, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts was nothing if not timely. The seminal exhibition centered on “computer art” and drew its name from the burgeoning field inspired by Norbert Wiener’s analysis of technological and social systems in his 1948 book Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. The discipline was then making waves in both mass culture and the arts. Indeed, a few months before the show opened, 2001: A Space Odyssey hit movie theaters and implanted artificial intelligence into the collective

  • William Anastasi

    IN THE ANNALS of visual artists employing sound, William Anastasi occupies a curious position. Audio is integral to much of his output, yet he’s never made music as an extension of his visual art practice à la Yves Klein or Jean Dubuffet, and the sounds he favors are certainly more straightforward than those preferred by many practitioners of “sound art.” They are not hidden or latent, nor are they fabricated with the intent to map the dimensions of a given space in acoustic terms; instead, Anastasi’s aural components are simple, even banal field recordings, easily recognizable as everyday noises

  • “Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: S/He Is Her/E”

    Though best known as the vocalist and guiding force behind the seminal industrial music groups Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, Genesis P-Orridge first emerged as a body/performance artist in early-1970s London, leading the highly controversial multimedia collective COUM Transmissions. In the ’90s, P-Orridge took up another radical body art collaboration, together with the late Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, in their Pandrogyne project, which took gender-bending and William Burroughs/Brion Gysin’s notions of the “third mind” and the cut-up method to aesthetic and

  • DOME and Groovy Records

    ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON in 1966, when Pink Floyd and the improvised-music group AMM were sharing a bill at the Marquee Club in London, AMM’s Keith Rowe laid his guitar flat on a table and dropped various objects onto it, eliciting an array of radically dissociated sounds. The Pollock-inspired technique fascinated Syd Barrett, Floyd’s guitarist. An early example of rock communing with true experimentalism, this episode may have just been a case of one former art student relating to another—even though at the time British art schools tended to attract aspiring rock musicians rather than

  • Van Dyke Parks

    “WE REMEMBER A TIME when historical continuity in music was still a viable thing,” Ry Cooder once told an interviewer researching his friend Van Dyke Parks, a patently idiosyncratic fixture of the LA music scene. “Yet both of us have always lived and played very much in the present. There’s no paradox in that!” Active since the 1960s as a composer, arranger, keyboardist, and producer, Parks tends to work within the mainstream and with rising young artists, but his sensibility—one that encompasses George Gershwin–inflected pop-classical pluralism as well as indigenous and global folk

  • Sue de Beer’s The Ghosts

    NO ONE EVER SEEMS TO EXIST entirely in the present in the videos of Sue de Beer. From the eighteenth-century Puritan hunched over a 1960s Brion Gysin Dreamachine in The Quickening, 2006, to the teen rocker daydreaming about a future high school student’s musical reveries in Hans and Grete, 2002–2003, her characters live in a kind of temporal purgatory. It therefore should have seemed almost inevitable that de Beer would make a work called The Ghosts. Commissioned by Art Production Fund and debuted at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in February, the two-channel video installation is her most

  • Robert Wyatt

    IN 2006, A NEW WORD, Wyatting, entered the lexicon. Referring to the prankish activity of sneaking an experimental music track onto an unsuspecting pub jukebox in order to vex other patrons, it got its name from an English teacher who suggested that Dondestan, a 1991 album by Robert Wyatt, epitomized the kind of music suitable for such a venture. While it’s hard to imagine one of Wyatt’s records actually clearing a room, he is the consummate cult figure with a taste for subversion—albeit one with a vulnerable, inimitable voice as cherished by his fans as Chet Baker’s or Chan Marshall’s by

  • Martin Kippenberger’s Musik 1979–1995

    LIKE MOST VISUAL ARTISTS’ musical forays, the recording career of Martin Kippenberger has been relegated to a footnote to his output in the plastic arts. Kippenberger’s discography numbers eight records, mostly seven-inches, whose tracks were first collected on the 1996 self-released CD Greatest Hits and are now available again in a handsome box set, Musik 1979–1995, that consists of three ten-inch records or one CD, plus an accompanying book. The book is dominated by a cursory oral history focusing on the artist’s perennially outsize personality, which implies that the Kippenberger legend alone

  • Iannis Xenakis

    IANNIS XENAKIS, WHO DIED IN 2001 at the age of seventy-eight, was the embodiment of Goethe’s famous quote “I call architecture frozen music.” Trained as a civil engineer, Xenakis went on to study composition with Olivier Messiaen, and his mature work intensified the two forms’ interrelationship: He fashioned musical scores from the notations of advanced mathematics and designed buildings utilizing the geometric shapes incorporated in the scores. While Xenakis’s music is scientific in construction, as Messiaen once observed “the preliminary calculations are completely forgotten at audition. . .

  • Mike Kelley and Michael Smith

    OVER THE PAST FEW DECADES, dancing, dressing up, and infantilism have been consistent components of the video and performance works of both Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, artists who frequently team with like-minded conspirators (Kelley with Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, and Tony Oursler; Smith with Joshua White, Seth Price, and Doug Skinner) but who never collaborated with each other until now. For their video/sculpture/sound installation titled A Voyage of Growth and Discovery (curated and produced by Emi Fontana of West of Rome Public Art, Los Angeles; curated at SculptureCenter by Mary

  • “White Noise”

    Another group show based on the to-and-fro between artists and music and musicians and art, “White Noise” boasted a solid cross section of youngish musicians (Jason Ajemian, Brendan Fowler, Mario Diaz de León), visual artists from older generations with a verifiable interest in rock music (Robert Smithson, Raymond Pettibon), and figures who work extensively in both media (Yoko Ono, Christian Marclay, Jutta Koether, Rodney Graham, Emily Sundblad). By raising expectations of sonic overlap in the title, curator Elyse Goldberg acknowledged the difficulties in containing individual sounds in an