Pop op

Pub date January 16, 2008
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer

› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "Omigod, I totally love that." A doll-faced, teenage dead ringer for Zooey Deschanel gawks dreamily at a dabbed dwarf cactus drifting off the edge of a cream-colored sheet of paper — jaw a-dangling, china blue eyes a-gobbling. It’s not often you catch a snatch of pure rock ‘n’ roll idol worship amid the pristine white walls of a museum space, yet here it was, flowering quietly in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art room that hosts the shifting collection of Paul Klee prints gathered and loaned by San Francisco’s father of the pill, Carl Djerassi. These days the Klee pieces are sharing space with the whimsy-washed ink, watercolor, and graphite works by San Francisco Art Institute graduate and international psych-folk rock emissary (and Guardian copydesk swear-jar star) Devendra Banhart, who performs at the museum Jan. 17 in celebration of "Abstract Rhythms: Paul Klee and Devendra Banhart."

The small show opened quietly, but judging from the cool kids reverently orbiting the pieces, word is slowly leaking out about this charming clutch of images, which displays both opera lover Klee’s most music-inspired, antic pieces — is that the musical fruit of a bean burrito or bassoon emerging from a posterior in Der Fagottist (The bassoonist)? — and Banhart’s sweetly humorous paper pieces depicting a fictitious fan called Smokey, who’s also the center of his recent, somewhat decentered LP, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL). Banhart is clearly a man of many gifts: here, Flowering Corn Maiden Smokey and Banded King Snake and Thunder Maiden show off a playful yet refined eye and an overflowing though focused imagination with a transfigurative bent that conjures Giuseppe "Fruit Face" Arcimboldo.

While the word show is increasingly, happily confused in both its musical and visual art contexts — and the term pop becomes more relevant in the art world than in the shiny plastic disc marketplace — the exhibit arrives as yet another instance of the healthy, ever-bubbling and brewing cross-pollination going on between the two types of media since the turn of the century. That highly consensual crossover fever dream is evident at art openings throughout the Bay every first Thursday, and it’s heartening to know that just as music becomes a harder proposition to tackle commercially and art has become a bigger business, musicians are finding their way toward new audiences and artists are coursing toward pop. And while spaces like 21 Grand and LoBot Gallery weather their share of hassles, newbs like the month-old Fort Gallery are throwing open their doors undeterred. The last, a Mission District space, is currently showing collage and sculpture by Ryan Coffey by appointment only — "Until we quit our day jobs," co-owner Jesi Khadivi says with a laugh — but Khadivi and cohort Vanessa Maida promise a mix of art, barbecue, live music, and special soirees like the Jan. 16 movie night that will juxtapose Ranu Mukherjee’s Sustenance short with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s tripindicular The Holy Mountain (1973).

The blend of high art and lowdown sounds isn’t new, ace genre bender Chris Duncan asserts: music-art hybridization "has always been around on different levels, but I think most people who make art also make music, or are very much influenced by music. As far as different mediums and different ways of doing things, the lines are so blurred at this point. For me, I like to keep busy, and I like getting a lot of people involved in stuff. I can get lost in my studio for a long time, and it gets kinda lonesome."

This may explain why Duncan — whose visual art career has been far from dormant, considering his fall solo show at Gregory Lind Gallery — has been dipping his toes into other creative wellsprings: on Jan. 18 he’ll celebrate the first release of SF twosome Pale Hoarse’s The Gospels on his new label, the Time Between the Beginning and the End. Call it a handmade labor of love: Duncan stitched and silk-screened about 100 multihued covers for the limited-edition record. Each one — available at Aquarius Records and via Duncan’s Hot and Cold Web site — promises to shimmer with different tones beneath the pink fluorescent-ink silk screen.

It’s the first record the Oakland artist has made, though he once designed a cover for a Jade Tree split with Songs: Ohia and My Morning Jacket, as well as for Battleship’s Presents Princess (Ononswitch, 2005). "There’s a total Sub Pop Singles Club influence, for sure. Music has always been part of my whole trip, and record collecting was such a big part of my growing up," says Duncan, whose also recently edited his first book, My First Time: A Collection of First Punk Show Stories (AK Press), a project that mushroomed from a slim zine, and he’s embarking on the next issue of the wonderful art zine he assembles with Griffin McPartland, Hot and Cold. (The next issue sounds like a doozy and will include contributions from Colter Jacobsen, Chris Corales, and Hisham Bharoocha and a CD by Golden Bears, a new project from the Quails’ Julianna Bright and Seth Lorinczi.) "Making a record fulfilled the need to hand-make stuff," Duncan continues. "A lot of projects I do outside painting are about gathering and collecting things, doing records, zine assembling. Now I’m inspired to put out a record every year." *


With Sustenance and The Holy Mountain

Wed/16, 8:30 p.m., $5 donation

Fort Gallery

83B Wiese, SF



Thurs/17, 8 p.m., $15–<\d>$20

Phyllis Wattis Theater, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF



With Raven and Hannah, visuals by Chris Duncan, and shorts

Fri/18, 8 p.m., $6

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF


For more, see Sonic Reducer Overage at www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.