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Featuring Matthew Jesse Jackson, John Coxon, and J. Spaceman
Thursday, October 24, 2019
504 West 24th Street, New York
Performances: 6.30 - 8.30pm
RSVP required: email@example.com
Lisson Gallery New York is pleased to present a night of performance, discussion and music inspired by the pioneering work of Art & Language and their 40 year collaboration with The Red Krayola, a proto-punk band founded in Houston by Mayo Thompson. The evening will also feature a discussion with Art & Language, hosted by art historian Matthew Jesse Jackson, as well as a newly commissioned homage to some of The Red Krayola's earliest live shows, composed by musicians J. Spaceman (of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized) and John Coxon (from Spring Heel Jack and the Treader label).
After the conceptual art group known as Art & Language was formed in 1968 at Coventry College of Art in the UK, it quickly spread to New York where it centred on two important journals, Art-Language (1969–1985) and then later The Fox (1975–1976), by which time some 20 artists were connected in various ways with the name. It was around this time that an album entitled Corrected Slogans came out, marking the first collaboration between Art & Language in the UK and The Red Krayola, in which snippets and slogans from conceptual art theory and philosophical tracts were sung or chanted over music composed in response by Thompson's band. This was a melding of socialist activism, linguistic experimentation and riotous rock and roll, but, rather than representing a simple division of labor between lyrics and backing tracks, these co-productions have continued and developed over subsequent years, albums and gigs, forming a reciprocal, cross-disciplinary body of work.
Continuing the radical spirit of collective exchange that informed those early songs, a new improvised composition by Jason Pierce aka J. Spaceman and John Coxon, entitled Tribute to The Red Crayola Live 1967, re-lives the psychedelic, free form origins of that relationship. Aside from being an inspiration for Coxon's own improvisatory, guitar-based practice and an avowed influence on Pierce's first band Spacemen 3, the chaotic, polyrhythmic first albums of Red Crayola (as they were then known) provided the foundation for the intervention and juxtaposition of Art & Language's later vocal instrumentation.
Art & Language themselves (now formed by two founding members representing the groupings on both sides of the Atlantic, Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden) will begin the evening at Lisson Gallery with a revised performance of Letters to The Jackson Pollock Bar in the Style of The Red Krayola (2012–2013). In this, the artists address a number of short essays to another group they have long been associated with, The Jackson Pollock Bar–professional actors who have lip-synched many Art & Language texts for an on-going series of 'Theory Installations.' The live readings will be accompanied by a video of The Red Krayola playing behind, in a sort of feedback loop of call and response, part discursive lecture, part extemporaneous concert. A new portfolio of silkscreen poster works reworking a similar series produced in 1977, entitled 10 Posters (2018) will also provide a backdrop to proceedings, many of which reference recent Art & Language works such as the Guernica Fragments, while one is titled The Red Krayola and another warns that you might be entering a Bad Place.
This opening performance is followed by a conversation instigated by Matthew Jesse Jackson, on the group's beginnings in the UK and the US, as well as how the notions of collaboration, performance and music combine within their varied, shifting practice and might approach something like a gesamtkunstwerk. As Michael Baldwin points out in a recent Lisson ON AIR podcast: 'I had a conversation with Mayo about this not that long ago, about how I felt [our collaboration] merited attention because it not only accounts for our passage through the '70s but also recognises how we work essayistically and redescriptively, or at least it creates the circumstances in which that begins to make sense. It also meant that we had to abandon our puritanism in relation to our status as among those who began conceptual art...'
The performance is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
About the artists
The activities of Art & Language have been marked from the outset by practical variety, by resistance to easy categorisation and by a tendency to provoke open and reflexive enquiry. Art & Language's earliest works date from before 1968, when the name was first adopted. In the following year, the first issue of the journal Art-Language was published in England. Then and over the next few years Art & Language provided a common identity for a number of people already involved in various types of collaboration. Experimental and sceptical, perhaps their most famous work is Index 01, exhibited at dOCUMENTA5, Kassel, Germany (1972), a catalogue of their writings in eight filing cabinets presented on four plinths.
Art & Language solo exhibitions include Nobody Spoke, Kunstsaele, Berlin, Germany (2017); Museu d'Art Contemporanide Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, Spain (2014); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2013); Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland (2012); Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo, Finland (2009); Centro De Arte Contemporáneo (CAC) Málaga, Spain (2004); MoMA PS1, New York, USA (1999); ICA, London, UK (1991); Tate Gallery, London, UK (1985); Musée d'Art Moderne, Toulon, France (1982) and Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK (1974). Art &Language have participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Guernica at the National Picasso Museum in Paris, France (2017); Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964-1979, Tate Britain, London, UK (2016); Before Normal: Concept After Concept, Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskkilde, Denmark (2014); Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957-2012, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2012); Sound of Music, Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent, UK (2009); dOCUMENTA 10, Kassel, Germany (1997), dOCUMENTA 7, Kassel, Germany (1982), the Xème Biennale Internationale d'Art, Palais de L'Europe, Menton, France (1974). In 1986 they were nominated for the Turner Prize.
John Coxon is a London-based British musician and record producer most often associated with Spring Heel Jack (with Ashley Wales), Spiritualised (alongside J. Spaceman) and About Group (with Alexis Taylor). Coxon is primarily a guitar player, interested in improvised music and runs his own record label, Treader, dealing with improvised material by Evan Parker, John Tchicai, William Parker and Han Bennink among others. His recent art-related commissions include: The End (2011) with Henrik Håkansson at The Modern Institute in Glasgow and at the Biennale of Sydney in 2014 and Disarm with Pedro Reyes (2013–2018).
Matthew Jesse Jackson is chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. He is editor and co-translator from Russian of Ilya Kabakov: On Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018), the author of The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (2010) and Vision and Communism (2011). For the past dozen years he has been involved with Our Literal Speed, a text and art undertaking located in Selma, Alabama.
Jason Pierce aka J. Spaceman still performs with Spiritualized, which he co-founded in 1990, before which he was the frontman for Spacemen 3 (1982–1991). He has collaborated with many acclaimed artists, including the Balanescu Quartet, Rico Rodriguez, Dr John, Primal Scream, Jim Dickinson and Yoko Ono as well as providing the original score for an installation, Silent Sound, by British artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. He continues to present his enduring vision of metaphysical beauty carried by great song writing and ambitious presentation. He also has an interest in the more terrestrial practice of free and experimental music, which he has pursued with the likes of Thurston Moore, Matthew Shipp and others.
The Red Krayola (formerly The Red Crayola) began as a psychedelic experimental rock band from Houston, Texas, formed by art students at the University of St. Thomas in 1966. The band was led by singer/guitarist and visual artist Mayo Thompson, along with drummer Frederick Barthelme and Steve Cunningham. In 1966, the band signed to International Artists, home label to fellow psych-rockers The 13th Floor Elevators. Their work prefigured punk, post punk, indie rock and the no wave scene in 1980s New York. They made noise rock, psychedelia and occasionally folk/country songs and instrumentals in a DIY fashion, an approach that presaged the lo-fi aesthetic of many 1990s US indie rock groups. Thompson has continued using the name, in its legally required permutation The Red Krayola, for his musical projects since.
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