Alan Licht

  • Alan Vega, Stars, 2016, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 36 × 24".

    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

  • View of “Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work,” 2017. Photo: Maris Hutchinson.

    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, Work No. 2656: Understanding, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 3 minutes 11 seconds.

    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, Ravel Ravel (detail), 2013, two-channel HD video (color, sound, 20 minutes 45 seconds), sixteen-channel sound installation, dimensions variable.

    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

  • Cover of Matmos’s Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey, 2016).

    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, Larkspur, CA, 1961.

    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

  • Cover of Cybernetic Serendipity Music (The Vinyl Factory/ICA, 2014).

    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, Without Title (timed/unsighted, in situ drawing remembering the sound of its own making) (detail), 2013, graphite on paper, speaker, sound, drawing 60 x 67".

    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, Mum & Dad, 1971, mixed media, 11 x 15".

    “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, London, 1981. From left: Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis. Photo: The Douglas Brothers.

    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

  • Cover art (front and back) by Charles Ray for Van Dyke Parks’s seven-inch single “Amazing Grace” b/w “Hold Back Time” (Bananastan Records, 2011).

    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, The Ghosts, 2011, color two-channel video, pillows, carpet, screen. Installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. Photo: James Ewing.

    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