Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon brought a dose of experimental art back to Tribeca last Friday with a performance at her exhibition at New York’s KS Art Gallery. For her show, “Performing/Guzzling” (which runs through June 12th) Gordon unveiled a short but intriguing collection of installations, objects and paintings, featuring blunt phrases like “Pussy Galore” painted in bold paints on blank canvases. But the night wasn’t all about avant-garde art — Gordon also took the opportunity to deliver a set of wild music.
Performing with keyboardist Jutta Koether under the name Bad Adult, the duo turned out a set of dark and dissonant experimental noise. The show started off tamely, with Gordon producing whistling sounds from her guitar as Koether played jarring lines underneath. They took turns rambling intense statements deliriously into a microphone: “You should always have a product that is not you!” “The promise of originality!” Several times throughout the performance, Gordon strolled through the audience as she continued to play her squealing instrument.
The show reached its peak when Gordon, dressed elegantly in a black dress and heels, stood on top of the gallery’s window ledge. A large crowd watched from the street outside, including Gordon’s husband, Sonic Youth singer-guitarist Thurston Moore. Gordon unplugged her guitar cable and began to toss and reel it back from the gallery floor in front of her, creating torrents of distorted sound. Koether had lifted her keyboard lengthwise and began kicking its keys. Later, Gordon retrieved her cable, plugged it back into the guitar, and triumphantly brought its feedback to a climax, ending the show. (Moore observed the scenario from the street, struggling to get a good angle as he took photos on his iPhone.)
Gordon’s art show was the perfect surrounding for her dark and nihilistic performance. Three of the most captivating works on display are blank canvases marked only by phrases written in dripping paint, like the “Pussy Galore” piece. The other two featured cryptic slogans like “Bad Adult” and “Secret Abuse.” To the uninformed they may seem like crude and angry statements, but Gordon explained the meaning of the works. “They are named after experimental noise acts,” she tells Rolling Stone, adding that she has painted an entire series of what she calls “Noise Paintings,” which can be seen in a new book showcasing her artwork.
Gordon also revealed that the psychedelic art scene of California, where she grew up, was a big inspiration for many of the installations. These included two plywood planks of wood hanging near the show’s entrance, which were painted with a rich, dark reflective acrylic. The pieces, which Gordon calls “Psychic Repressions,” cast a gloomy, chilling presence over the show.
Other highlights included a bizarre installation featuring a tall tree propped against a wall. The branches were painted dark black, sprinkled with glitter and tangled with stockings. “I wanted to take something from nature and make it look unnatural,” Gordon says of the piece. But what about the stockings — did they belong to Gordon? “Never worn,” she responds coyly. “They’re fresh from Urban Outfitters.”