The reconciliation of two often distant mediums, visual art and music, is currently underway in The Beat Goes On, a four-person group exhibition at the SVA Chelsea Gallery. Artist-turned-curator Derrick Adams has separated the space into four sections, each intended as a listening room for the auditory works of four artists and musicians. But each section is accompanied by disparate strands of photography, sculpture, and video works that allow for a level of immersion that transcends both the occasional pretension of the gallery space and the informality of listening to music.
The first experiential sanctuary was created by artist Elia Alba, who dedicated her room to revered DJ and NYC night life fixture Larry Levan. To honor the late host of Paradise Garage’s “Saturday Mass” parties, Alba fabricated a series of masks of Levan’s face and distributed them among partygoers, who were then photographed at clubs in dance-crazed euphoria. These images and accompanying video footage adorn the walls but the masks themselves are also on display, protected by glass and arranged in a manner that make them feel like exalted relics to the ‘musical shaman’ responsible for closing sexual orientation and racial gaps on the dance floor.
Another iconic DJ is celebrated in the second room of The Beat Goes On. Paul D. Miller, more commonly known as DJ Spooky, has concocted a listening room inspired by the Voyager Records, a series of sounds and images NASA sent out to space in 1977, in an attempt to engage with extraterrestrial life. Inside of cylindrical pedestals lie DJ Spooky’s own interpretations of the Voyager Records, which co-exist alongside figurative drawings imposed on barcode-style lines.
Artist Tameka Jenean Norris AKA Meka Jean took over the third room. The self-proclaimed Ivy League Ratchet is showcasing her latest EP of the same name, a heady mix of hip-hop songs exploring unorthodox themes ranging from sexual encounters in MFA programs to existential dilemmas. A larger-than-life mural of Jean in a laundromat lies dead center, surrounded by her lyrics scrawled on the wall, including gems like: “I’m lying in yesterday’s clothes trying to remember everything I told you about me—but I don’t even recall the last words that we spoke.” While viewing the exhibition, Jean emphatically performed tracks from Ivy League Ratchet, engaging members of the audience one-by-one in tight physical proximity, with an in-your-face, “yeah I just said that” attitude.
The final room belongs to Kevin Beasley, a rising visual and sound artist who has reduced the idea of the listening room to its bare essentials. Beasley is presenting his ongoing project literally titled “Listening Room”, which is a musical cult of sorts. People are invited to bring and play their own music of choosing while the rest of the audience, who are not allowed to use cellphones, attentively listens and engages with your sounds. Show up to the event a minute late and you are barred entry; the sanctity of the listening room is of utmost importance to Beasley.
Through a mix of artists, artists-turned-rappers, and DJs, The Beat Goes On bridges the lamentable gap between music and fine art, creating a complex of spaces where both coexist in highly different ways, demonstrating not only the synchronicity of the two but the multi-faceted possibilities inherent to this combination.
The Beat Goes On will have a formal opening reception on Thursday, September 8th from 6:00 – 8:00PM at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.
The exhibition will remain open through September 17th, peppered by performances and DJ sets in-between, that can be found in full detail here.