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Record Breaking: Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis at Zeitgeist

Video still from "Harmony of the Spheres" by Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis

Video still from “Harmony of the Spheres” by Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis

In the latest exhibition at Zeitgeist, LA-based artist Kevin Cooley and Chattanooga’s Phillip Andrew Lewis teamed up with United Record Pressing for a site and community specific collaborative exhibition. The two artists used United’s record vinyl, in all its various forms, as both medium and subject matter. The show includes vinyl sculpture, light installation, digital scans, video, and a performance piece.

Harmony of the Spheres centers around vinyl and its materiality. Throughout the exhibition, the substance is stretched and skewed to its physical limits. Viewers see vinyl in drastically different forms, from nascent pellets to x-rayed objects to shattered disks. One piece—a dense black nugget titled Oddity—is made of torched vinyl.

Cooley and Lewis’s decision to work with United Record Pressing is significant. Located near the gallery, United has been solely pressing vinyl since 1949 and is not only one of Nashville’s historical gems, but its legacy burrows down to the heart of the Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood as well. In their Chestnut street location, they’ve pressed everything from America’s first Beatles 7” to Jay Z’s The Black Album. During their early history, United was one of the few places where both black and white recording artists came together and were treated equally. The black and white vinyl used in the title performance and video piece, Harmony of the Spheres, seems to speak to that history, though perhaps unintentionally.

The Harmony of the Spheres video documents a performance in which 1000 black and white LPs are violently thrown against a grey wall. The theatrical, destructive act was performed by a group of volunteers while the visuals and audio were recorded. While the video plays in the gallery, a portion of those broken pieces are being reprocessed into black and white swirl records, and will contain the audio captured during the experience. The limited edition records are set to be available in April.

While the physicality of vinyl provides a visual backbone for the exhibition, it is not without symbolism. Here vinyl, which at its most elemental is a form of compressed carbon, doubles as a metaphor for the creation and destruction of the cosmos. The titles of the works, such as Dark Matter, Dark Star, and Orbital Resonance continuously bring us back to the conceptual realm in which the works are meant to be considered.

My God, It’s Full of Stars is a five-and-a-half feet long light box covered with a layer of vinyl pellets. The small beads allow glimmers of light to shine through the gaps between them. The resulting effect is sidereal and mesmerizing. Perfectly titled, the piece is simple and full of wonder. To stand quietly in front of it for a few minutes is, in itself, worth the trip to the gallery.

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About Sara Estes

Sara Estes is a writer and curator based in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the gallery coordinator for the Carl Van Vechten and Aaron Douglas Galleries at Fisk University, working closely with The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of European and American Modern Art. She is also the assistant and apprentice to renowned paintings conservator Cynthia Stow of Cumberland Art Conservation. Estes is the co-founder and curator of the Nashville-based contemporary exhibition space, Threesquared. Her writing and art criticism has been featured in numerous local and national publications including BURNAWAY, Number, The Nashville Scene, Nashville Arts Magazine, and ArtNow.