Learn ‘How to Play Guitar’ at 337 Project Space
By Steve Davison
“How to Play Guitar” Opening Reception Friday, February 5th. at 337 Project Space, 337 Division Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In this group exhibition, curator Tom Duimstra assembles a rambling and shambling band of visual artists who also happen to be musicians, activists, among other formal labels. Heck, there’s even a former delivery driver turned Director of the Montrose Art Society. Which begs the question, who can tell what exactly defines an artist? And that’s precisely the point.
The exhibit channels the freeform spirit and you-don’t-have-to-be-a-virtuoso of Half Japanese guitarist David Fair’s Molotov Cocktail of a treatise on musicianship called “How to Play Guitar”. In fact, the exhibit was specifically named after the ‘instructional’ how-to manifesto by Fair, who also happens to be one of the artists participating in the show.
The clearly delineated lines between musician, writer, photographer, painter, sculptor that fall under the umbrella definition of “Artist” don’t hold their shape here. The definition of an artist is amoebic by nature; shape-shifting, mercurial, and interdisciplinary. Duimstra likens the exhibit to the “organized chaos” of a well-crafted Pop Song.
Speaking of definitions or lack thereof, the word ‘Interdisciplinary’ is defined as “of or relating to one or more branch of knowledge.” The term certainly describes the group of national and local artists that Duimstra has assembled for this show. They are musicians, painters, sculptors, activists, culture workers, writers, photographers and curators; Think the list of various ‘experts’ from Donovan’s epic ultra-jam “Atlantis” and you get an idea of the wide array of talent Duimstra has brought together here.
David Fair is a member of the “legendary alt-everything” Ann Arbor band Half Japanese. According to the artist’s bio, Fair works primarily with paper cuttings. His pieces are layered and repetitive cutouts that reflect the “repetition” of the aforementioned Pop Song, the hook and melody repeated over and over for maximum catchability.
Like Fair, Scott Cortez also embraces a non-traditional approach by laying guitar. As per the artist’s bio, “Scott Cortez does not consider himself a guitarist, but uses the guitar to generate textural colors, dronefields, soundscapes, and loop environments”. Cortez has honed the colors of his sonic palette while performing in the bands loveliescrushing and Astrobite among others. The textures and experimentation of Cortez’s musical output also inform his visual style; his work is layered and ephemeral with a swirling array of muted colors that lends an almost dreamlike and melancholic feel, similar to the music he makes.
Casey McGlynn’s work employs repetition and reflects recurring themes from his life. Much like ability for music to provide a framework in which to give voice to emotion, according to McGlynn’s artist statement, “Painting and creating art is a way for [me] to make sense of a chaotic world, ‘painting is the only time in my life that I’m not constantly thinking and over-analyzing everything I do’.”
McGlynn’s work is in public and private collections in New York, Hong Kong, and Canada. In 2005, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado had a retrospective of his autobiographical work. Casey McGlynn was a featured artist at the 2015 SOFA Chicago Exposition.
San Antonio, Texas-based artist Raul Gonzalez’ influences include pop culture, video games, Lowrider magazine, and music videos. These sources are apparent in his explosive and razzle dazzle pieces that jubilantly explode with color. His background as a graphic designer is also readily apparent that lends a playfulness and mischief to his work.
Grand Rapids-based artists Sarah Scott and David Warmenhoven round out the show. Printmaker, activist, and musician, Scott has been a staple and steadying presence in the Grand Rapids art scene for years. Like all the best politically charged music, her prints are loud, bold, brash, fearless and topically totally on point.
Fellow Grand Rapids artist David Warmenhoven’s sculptural piece features presidents and astronauts and asks the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ suggesting the myriad ways these iconic images become as much a part of the popular culture as the individuals themselves.
337 Project Space continues to bring together local and national artists. Duimstra has established a variety of connections locally and nationally, and bringing these disparate groups together is helping fashion 337 Project Space into a tiny gem of the Grand Rapids art community. There’s a DIY sense and brazen rock & rollality to the show that is refreshing. As Scott Cortez states that he may never learn to play guitar “properly”, which certainly hasn’t stopped him from playing and creating.