By Michael Alexander
It’s quite surprising when something as archaic as the vinyl record, especially to those of us who were born after the advent of the cassette tape, reveals its capacity to inspire and appeal to generations of artists and art surveyors alike. This remarkable capacity comes across in The Nasher Museum of Art’s most recent exhibition, “The Record,” effortlessly–like the smooth tones of an old Roberta Flack LP (one of which is available for listening in the lounge area outside of the exhibition space). Throughout the exhibition, the vinyl record is used to address an array of concerns and interests by over 40 artists.
The appeal of the record was quite apparent on the eve of the exhibition’s opening, at its preview, when over 200 artists, museum goers and members of the general public alike gathered to experience “The Record.” The Nasher Museum, yet again, proved itself a cultural hotspot with the record as its main attraction. Live DJ’s and a diverse collection of authentic vinyl LPs completed the scene. Once the hoopla calmed, I used an afternoon to revisit the exhibition (as you should) to consider what it held.
The most notable feat of “The Record” was its versatility of expression. The show seemed to highlight the vinyl disc as a catalyzing force that produced a plethora of artistic creations and ideas. On one hand, there is an installation (“Pour des dents d’un blanc éclatant et saines,” 2005), by artist Jereon Diepenmaat, in which a bird replaces a traditional record needle. The free-standing work plays with the notion of “sound makers,” as record sleeves, displaying tropical birds, lean against the record player’s stand display. On another hand, there is a mock gold-disc plaque, by artist Carrie Mae Weems (“Ode to Affirmative Action,” 1989). Through the use of a fictional 1960s songstress, the work challenges the once present racial confines of the music industry. There is even a video display that plays DVD footage of artist Taiyo Kimura somewhat humorously interacting with a record player (“Haunted by You,” 2009). The work emphasizes a human lack of proficiency with technology. These very different works only begin to suggest the breadth of the conceptual contents of “The Record.”
Homage is paid to the record through a variety of media: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, collage, and video and sound technology. The exhibition even makes use of (especially fun) 3-D glasses and old school head phones.