The artwork created by Ian Trask that is up now at ArtSpace New Haven is made of spools of multicolored elastic ribbon drilled into the wall, configured in a machine-like arrangement that resembles gears, pulleys and belts, as if the loops and spools operate an unseen contraption.
When Trask creates his artwork, the music he favors is electronica, such as Amon Tobin's "Isam." "Generally, the music is just a way to nullify all the other distractions. ... But sometimes it's jarring and distracting, with a machine vibe to it. I enjoy getting information from it, like getting inside machine components," Trask said.
The exhibit in New Haven is called "I Like the Sound of That" and is presented by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The show focuses on six artists and the music they listen to when they create their artworks. The musical selections are played on speakers beside the artists' works, and often show thematic similarities across the musical and visual realms.
Tobin's music accompanies Trask's installation. Another component is sounds of drills and pigeons. These also reflect his work, since Trask scavenges for materials.
"This batch came form a derelict factory space in Brooklyn. ... One thing they manufactured decades ago was elastic colored textiles," he said. "On the upper floor, all the windows were busted out. There were floor-to-ceiling stacks of elastic. Pigeons were living in it."
All of the artists chose their musical accompaniment, and let sound designer Joel Abbott record them in their studios. "We're bringing the sound of the work space here, or the sound of what's in their head," Abbott said.
Lindsay Packer's two minimalist pieces are made of light reflected through prisms and onto the walls of a darkened bay. Packer appropriately chose simple sounds: birds, cars, street noises, fans, motors that she hears out of the windows when working at her Brooklyn studio.
Peter Halley filled a wall with a yellow-and-black digital montage of notebooks he kept in the '80s, filled with visual inspirations, ideas, random musings. Halley's signature simple images of buildings with windows are accompanied by a playlist including Joy Division's "Interzone," whose lyrics speak of the urban connection/disconnection that is a frequent theme of Halley's. Fanciful imaginings by Halley — "collapse of humanism, not a pretty sight," "Future archaeology will discover two types of man that inhabited North America" — are in the same vein as some of the more enigmatic lyrics of David Byrne, whose music also plays, sometimes with the Talking Heads and sometimes with Brian Eno.
Linda Lindroth finds fraying product boxes, breaks them down and photographs them, resulting in large-scale prints so detailed they often seem three-dimensional. Her music is what Abbott calls "Americana": show tunes, Gershwin, Stan Getz, film soundtracks, Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkel.
Lindroth, who works in the former Marlin Arms Factory on Willow Street in New Haven, said her work is an homage to America's manufacturing past. "We no longer make these things, razor blades and scissors and other things, that were made in places like Waterbury and Pennsylvania and Ohio. Somebody was putting these things into cardboard boxes," she said. "All those jobs are gone."
Her music of choice often evokes old-fashioned American get-up-and-go and the country's factory legacy, for example "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" from "Annie, Get Your Gun."
"I work in the building where Annie Oakley's rifle was built," she said.
The work of Joseph Saccio, across the gallery, has a more ancient and mythological feel: a quiver, a reconfigured root system of a black oak tree, other works made with rustic woods. Saccio's music is steeped in ancient traditions: Bach, Verdi, rosary sonatas, Bolivian pan-pipe music.
Delano Dunn's artwork is inspired by social movements of the '60s, especially the struggle for civil rights and the space race. One series shows Freedom Riders wearing space helmets. "The Freedom Riders started on May 4, 1961. The next day, the first Mercury astronaut went up. It's so strange that these things were happening at the same time. People don't connect it," Dunn said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
But Dunn's music doesn't reflect this. He just uses it to set a mood. "It depends on my mood when I enter the studio. If I'm being a little lazy and blah, I play something up-tempo and aggressive to get me up and ready to engage in what I need to do," like hip-hop music by Drake, he said. "If I need to be more mellow, I play Tony Bennett and Bill Evans."
Ryan Frank, the curator of the show, said that in designing the installation he wanted each artist's sound to overlap each other. "Viewers could walk up to each body of work and be able to isolate their soundtracks but also be cognizant of other sounds in the space," Frank said. "It creates a symphony of these six individuals."
'On Another Note'
A companion exhibit in New Haven, also presented under the Arts & Ideas umbrella, is "On Another Note" at Yale School of Art. The show is curated by Alva Greenberg, who selected artworks not because of the music the artists play while they work but for the musical imagery and elements incorporated into the work.
The work of Carlos Estevez and Davide Salvadore are standouts. Salvadore created an undefinable stringed instrument — Is it a lute? Is it an oud? — out of finely patterned and multicolored Murano glass. Estevez mashes up mannequins and musical instruments to create marionettes, one with the body of a violin and another built around a silver clarinet. Estevez also fashioned a kite to look like a stringed instrument, with metal cylinders in the tail that jingle sweetly against each other when they move.
Jane Benson gets three artworks out of each of her projects. She cuts musical instruments in half and attaches colored pencils to them. She photographs them against stark white backgrounds, then places them on top of paper and drags them around to create swirling patterns. All of her elements — the instruments, the drawings and the photos — are on display.
Bob Gill's black-and-white print "Jazz" is charming, a series of musical staffs that go haywire, illustrating the freeform nature of the genre. Ellen Priest's abstract paintings are inspired by jazz, with titles such as "Freddie Hubbard's 'Up Jumped Spring'" and "Arturo and Elio's 'Dos Y Mas.'"
Anita Glesta created watercolors inspired by a cardiac examination she took, and they are accompanied by a video of Janis Joplin singing "Piece of My Heart." Harry Bertoia's standing sound sculpture makes a soothing metalic clang when it moves. Mike Hamad, music writer for the Hartford Courant, shows three of his series of "set list schematics," which turn a concert's set list into a "graphic listening journal."
Other artists in the exhibit are Mark Applebaum, Elizabeth Azen, Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad, Luke DuBois, Michael Fairfax and Ana Flores.
"I LIKE THE SOUND OF THAT" is at ArtSpace New Haven, 50 Orange St. until July 1. "On Another Note" is in the Green Hall Gallery at Yale School of Art, 1156 Chapel St. in New Haven, until June 25. Three gallery talks will be held from 12:30 to 1 p.m.: Michael Fairfax (June 16), Ana Flores (June 21) and Mike Hamad (June 23); artidea.org.