MCA's Sympathy for the Devil

Par Alidor Aucoin le 30 octobre 2008

On the heels of the  show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which examines music and dance in Andy Warhol’s work, the Museum of Contemporary Art has opened a similar exhibition of its own:  Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967.

The two shows are complimentary. Both examine how contemporary art and rock music have converged over the past 40 years. If you like one show, you’ll like the other. The advantage to the MAC’s equally sophisticated offering, however, is that its a bit more interactive than the Warhol show.

You can actually step into a life-size recording studio and cut a demo tape. There is also a floor made up of 1,476 vinyl albums, and a newspaper collage put together by Richard Hamilton, called “Swinging London,” which documents the drug-related episodes of the Rolling Stones.

Curator Dominic Molon says the show was influenced by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which both were released in 1967. That’s the year, curator Dominic Molon believes, that everything changed, when rock music became “an art form to be taken seriously.”

“I wanted to make the exhibition about rock music simply because I rock is the most oriented of the pop-musical genres,” he said. “I honestly find too much recent hip hop obsessed with bling, and what appears to be an egotistical cult of the self that runs contrary to making  challenging new music or breaking new visual ground.”

Sympathy for the Devil  is broken down into six sections - the New York scene, West Coast happenings,  the Midwest, the British pop music scene, New Wave/punk, and  Worldbeat. While  the show  explores  the historical connection between art and rock, it also shows how rock continues to inspire artists today. One example is Sound Digressions in Seven Colours, a seven-channel video installation  of seven different loops of musicians improvising. Then there’s photographer Melanie Schiff’s tribute to Neil Young, a photograph meant to be a meditation on the relationship people have with music and the  people who make it.

An instructive exhibit shows how artist Peter Saville came up with the idea for the album cover for New Order’s Power, using a  19th century still life painting that translates the name of the band, and its tunes into coloured squares. .

Another installation, Mark Leckey’s Fiorucci Made me Hard Core, is footage of people from different time periods dancing. But editing the footage, and slowing down the frames, group frenzy becomes a personal statement as seen by each individual. There’s also bootleg concert footage from the punk band, The Cramps, The Smiths and of course, The Rolling Stones.

One of the most ingenious works, David Muller’s I Want it Louder, is a mural in which rock artists are depicted like roots growing from a tree.

Sympathy for the Devil is at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art until January 11. 


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