Tom Strini

Jump Cut Pop at the Haggerty

By - Sep 1st, 2009 05:23 pm
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We know all about mash-ups now. Anyone with a computer can grab other people’s music and other people’s imagery off the web, combine sounds or images, and make something else of them.

The reworking of found objects goes back centuries — Bach did it with Vivaldi. Novels became plays became operas. But the idea of artists mining pop culture as raw material only goes back to 1950s and ’60s, the decades when serious people began using terms such as “pop culture.”

As it turns out, Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum owns some  key early works along these lines. A couple of years ago, registrar John Loscuito, education curator Lynne Shumow and museum director Wally Mason ran across a trove of wild prints in the Haggerty’s collection by Tadanori Yokoo (b. 1936) and the sly, dry “re-purposed” photographs of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005).

Paolozzi clipped black and white photos from such sources as old technical textbooks and carefully framed and mounted them. The idea is to change the meaning of the image by changing the way we look at and think about them. In a way, a picture from a textbook becomes a different thing when it’s hanging on a wall in a gallery. The mental process of considering that change is the essence of the art, as much as the paper or the wood in the frame or the image itself.

Tadanori Yokoo's "A la maison de M. Civecawa"

Tadanori Yokoo’s “A la maison de M. Civecawa”

Yokoo, a graphic designer by trade, made cover art for many rock albums in the 1960s and designed advertising. The many poster-sized prints at the Haggerty seem at first to be riotous carnivals of cartoon color, but closer investigation reveals a background serenity and balance that is the essence of classical Japanese art-making. Some of these pieces are pure artworks; some are advertisements. You can’t really tell them apart, which is part of the point.

The depth of the Haggerty’s collections of these two artists got Mason and Loscuito to thinking about how routine it has become, since the mid-20th century, for artists to think and work as Yokoo and Paolozzi did. They mined their own vaults and borrowed pieces to assemble a succinct but potent survey of such artists up to the minute.

Nobu Fokui’s (b. 1942) mixed-media works blend advertising and pop imagery into colorful chaos, usually overlaid with a grid of dark lines. They look completely abstract from 10 feet away.


Jane Hammond’s “Spells”

Jane Hammond’s (b. 1950) black-and-white photos look like documentary pictures from ancient National Geographic magazines — except for the deadpan what’s-wrong-with-this-picture element. There’s a river, a little hut on stilts, a river, a sampan — but the sampan is loaded with a tumble of television sets. Hammond works on a big scale, too. Her “Tabula Rasa,” a life-size nude photo of herself, facing away and covered with “tattoos” photo-imposed on her image, is one of the knockouts of the show.

Martha Rosler's "The Grey Drape"

Martha Rosler’s “The Grey Drape”

Martha Rosler (b. 1943) turns familiar consumerist imagery to bitter political commentary, as images of rampaging soldiers and terrified foreign civilians are cut into American Dream homes.

Cliff Evans (b. 1977) and the TerrorFarmer group’s “15 Reasons to Go to War” is a 13-minute animation shown on a vast wide screen. Like Rosler, Evans would indict consumerist culture — including, for example, the consumption of pornography — and find it complicit in the disaster of war. Like Yokoo, Evans sends familiar, garish images from pop culture — video games and Internet imagery as well as advertising, television and movies — careening about a large visual field. And like Yokoo, he orders his chaos with a very traditional device: symmetry.

Jon Mueller, photo credit Kat Berger

Jon Mueller, photo Kat Berger

It fell to Shumow to arrange a live program that made sense with this artwork. She chose Jon Mueller. The 39-year-old drummer knows pop culture; he played in rock bands for many years. And he completely gets the idea of collage.

“Physical Changes,” the video/music collage to be shown Thursday, began with Mueller’s “Nothing Changes,” shifting atmospheres of live drumming and electronic sounds transformed and blended.

Mueller gave that piece to friends Marcus Schmickler, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Dan Burke and James Plotkin and invited them to add and blend their own live and/or electronic sounds to the mix.

“There had to be an element of trust,” Mueller said, by way of understatement during an interview Tuesday.

Now we have five pieces: Mueller’s source work and four reworkings. All of them went to Jim Schoenecker, who was charged with combining them. Schoenecker’s passed his meta-work on to video artist David Dinnell, who added a visual layer.

Now that’s an epic mash-up worthy of Yokoo.

In addition to the screening of “Physical Changes,” Mueller will play drums and percussion,  Schoenecker will play analog synthesizer and David Bailey will play gongs in a live concert Thursday.

What: The Jump Cut Pop show and “Physical Changes”

When: Thursday, Sept. 3; reception at 6 p.m. Marquette University Haggerty Museum of Art,  13th and Clybourn; performance at 7 p.m. at the nearby M.U. Helfaer Theater.

Admission: Free

Where: Marquette University Haggerty Museum of Art

Categories: Art, Classical, Culture Desk

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