Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Art You Can Play: Instruments at Solway Jones"








In the shushed quiet of big, institutional museums, it seems to tick like a metronome—the idea that “art should be seen, not heard.”

Museum-goers seem to explore art in silenced awe. Excessive chatter is frowned upon and touching the art is a definite no-no.

Not at Solway Jones in Chinatown. The current show, Instruments, marches to its own beat.

As I walked through Instruments, I was caught off-guard by the sounds emanating from the art. One piece I found particularly fascinating (and ironic) was made of two clear glass cups and two metronomes. Clinking against the glass, the pendulums of the metronomes swung back and forth to create a light, almost airy sound—music from a regular metronome!

“Our gallery’s program has always been heavily directed towards artists working in different areas of interests besides just making only painting or sculpture,” explained Michael Solway, co-owner of Solway Jones, in an email interview, "Instruments is still in my opinion a sculpture exhibition. Sculptures that make sound.”

In the past, Solway Jones exhibited shows featuring the likes of John Cage and Fluxus artist and musician Benjamin Patterson. For Instruments, Solway knew he wanted to continue exploring the integration of sound and art.

“My intention is to make the viewer part of the experience of making music,” said Solway, “that by looking at instruments or playing them is a music experience, anyone can be a musician.”

My friend and fellow gallery-goer was initially afraid to touch, let alone hit the gong/cymbal piece at Solway Jones. Yet with the clicks and ticks of the art surrounding, she finally struck the art—sounds resonated, adding to the mosaic of noises. And for a second, she became a musician, an artist herself.

Instruments turned the usual way of viewing/admiring art on its head. Rather than revering artists and their handiwork in quiet, static ways, viewers made the existing art/instruments the canvas for their own creations. And seemingly redefined the metronome.

Instruments is running at Solway Jones until August 15 (http://solwayjonesgallery.com).


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