A sense of nostalgia is in the air this summer with artists fixated on creating work that recalls the central role that analog music has held in society for decades – from vinyl records, to tape cassettes, to boom boxes.
GREY AREA’s co-founder, Kyle DeWoody, says she noticed a recent widespread integration of music into several fine artists’ work, including Ryan Humphrey’s Ghetto Blaster, David Ellis’ Mubarak, Shelter Serra’s Mixed Tape, Megan Whitmarsh’s Soft 45S, Ted Riederer’s Primal Sound, and more. Many of these artists interpret objects associated with music, particularly in the form of CDs, tape cassettes, and vinyl records. The re-contextualizing of such integral symbols of music references the extinction of analog music, and its evolution into the intangible iTunes files that sit on your computer hard drive today.
Megan Whitmarsh and Ryan Humphrey both utilize the concept of “visual noise” in their work. They reference the inaccessibility of vinyl, tape cassettes, and boom boxes by recreating these objects in fabric and wood, leaving them without function. Whitmarsh recreates vinyl records out of fabric in her piece Soft 45S – simultaneously highlighting that these records are without function while also reminiscing on records’ past significance.
Humphrey’s Ghetto Blaster and Cassette Tapes are in this same vein of “visual sound.” Both of these works look realistic but are evidently made entirely of wood and lack any function. Shelter Serra jabs at this same concept of “the death of analog music,” by creating tape cassettes out of cast resin.
Ted Riederer plays on the extinction of records with Primal Sound, a melted vinyl record that the artist molds into the shape of a skull, perhaps a memento mori for vinyl. A self-described “refugee from punk” and a band member himself, Riederer’s work is fully entwined with music. Primal Sound even draws a parallel between the shape of a sound wave and the skull’s coronal suture. These melted and sculpted vinyl records can even be customized with your choice of record.
David Ellis utilizes the symbolic power of vinyl in his piece titled Mubarak, which assembles a stack of records with Egypt-themed album covers, a reference to the Arab Spring in Egypt.
This past spring, GREY AREA exhibited work by over twenty artists that touched on the themes of visual sound and nostalgia for the days of analog music.