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Skidmore College

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang co-curates Tang show

June 23, 2014

At New York City’s legendary Bang on a Can musical organization, where he is co-founder and co-artistic director, David Lang is described as a composer who “embodies the restless spirit of invention … at the same time deeply versed in the classical tradition and committed to music that resists categorization, constantly creating new forms.”

One of those newly created forms is about to debut at Skidmore College’s Tang Teaching Museum. I was a double, a multilayered exhibition/composition interweaving music and art, opens July 5 and will run through January 4, 2015.

Ciara Phillips
Ciara Phillips, A lot of things put
together, 2013

For his first curated museum exhibition, Lang has collaborated with the Tang’s Dayton Director Ian Berry to bring together work of visual artists who, like composers, make sets of rules for creating their pieces. While the use of a musical score as a set of performance instructions is familiar, the notion of an artist creating work with a set of rules is perhaps less so, especially as creator and performer are usually one and the same. All of the artists in this exhibition have invented rules, whether written or not, and followed them; each work has a score—a plan—that has been realized in the physical work.

Among the works in the show is 5482 Drawings of Anni Albers, Untitled, 1932 by Suzanne Bocanegra. As Berry explains it, the artist “set up a system for redrawing a work by artist Anni Albers. The work is made of many smaller drawings brought together to produce a wall-filling expanse that looks like it could be music paper.” Bocanegra herself, in a Tang museum video, describes the process of her work as “not just as templates for another static work of art, but as a script, a musical score, or an instruction for how to move, or how to behave.”

Paris-based artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, originally trained as a musician, creates deceptively simple yet carefully orchestrated sound installations with familiar objects. The Tang exhibition features his Untitled (Series #2), 3 (1999), in which floating bowls and glasses floating an inflatable pool, creating and ever-changing sound score.  “The physical elements and the motion of the … bowls in Untitled become both the instruments and the score itself,” he explained in a 2012 conversation with music and art critic Christoph Cox. “My purpose was to give to the audience a way of understanding where the music was coming from and how it was made, as well as to extend the notion of the score to the physical aspect of the generating system.”

Tang Kay Rosen
Kay Rosen, Wanderful!, 2013

I was a double also features the work of artists Regina Bogat, André Cadere, Sarah Cain, Karin Davie, Taylor Davis, David Dupuis, Tony Feher, Alfred Jensen, Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson, Sol LeWitt, Chris Martin, Gabriel Orozco, Bruce Pearson, Ciara Phillips, Kay Rosen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Fred Tomaselli, Johannes VanDerBeek, Ruth Vollmer, Stanley Whitney, and Christopher Wool.

All of the artists gave Berry and Lang a sentence about their works, which Lang set to music. The exhibition’s title comes from one of the artist’s statements, with the word “double” resonating on multiple levels. For example, it is a musical term that can mean two instruments playing the same part together, or with one instrument an octave higher or lower. The term also references the artists’ double roles in inventing and realizing their own rules.  That music is combined and recombined in a soundtrack that plays in the gallery. Experienced together the artworks and the music blend into a larger, layered work as the exhibition.   

“One of the reasons David has been so honored as a composer and producer is that he invites so many different audiences into the world of contemporary music,” says Berry. With I was a double, “we are building on that spirit to create a welcoming and experimental environment that is the site for many kinds of activities and experiences. It is going to be a great space to be in with new furniture by LA-based artists Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson, and lots of different collaborators presenting performances.”

David Lang is a New York-based composer who is active in many genres and media. His piece “Little Match Girl Passion,” commissioned by Carnegie Hall, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and a Grammy in 2010. Lang is Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year and recipient of Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair for 2013–14. An active collaborator, he has worked closely with a diverse group of artists including Peter Greenaway, Benjamin Millepied, Susan Marshall, Darren Aronofsky, Ann Hamilton, and Mark Dion.

Lang is co-artistic director of New York’s Bang on a Can, which he founded in 1987 with composers Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, and he is professor of music composition at the Yale School of Music.

Three additional solo exhibitions of cutting-edge contemporary art open on July 5:  Opener 26: Jeff Sonhouse: Slow Motion features striking mixed-media portraits by the New York-based painter in his first solo museum show; Opener 27: Beverly Semmes: FRP presents works on paper and ceramics from the artist’s Feminist Responsibility Project; and Opener 28: Erika Verzutti: Mineral, showcases an installation of bronze, concrete, glass, and wax sculptures in the Brazilian artist’s first solo museum show. Also opening July 5 are Elevator Music 27, Kamau Patton: Torus–Variation 1, and an exhibition organized by Celia Caldas, Class of 2014.

For more information and a full calendar of events, visit the Tang web site.

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