John Harrison is only half kidding when he criticizes his own music selection for the first art opening he is curating. It's not that something is wrong with DJ Silvaback, the Chapel Hill dance syndicate who will spin records during the reception of Minus Sound Research at Fuse. It's just that, had he thought of it earlier, Harrison and the other six artists with work in the show could have used the opportunity to turn local art connoisseurs into fans of their bands and perhaps even sell some CDs.
All of the artists with work in Minus Sound Research are active Triangle musicians. Aside from that, very little connects the work in the exhibit; instead of a unifying element, theme or aesthetic, this is intended as an exploration of creative minds moving through different media. Harrison, who was a founding member of the Comas, is now simultaneously preparing both an EP and an LP with his own North Elementary. He uses acrylics, spray paint and screen prints. Photographer Chip Smoak used to be in North Elementary, but now he leads Simple. Oils painter William Taylor, who attended UNC-Wilmington with Harrison, is better known as Bill Taylor, keyboardist with The Kingsbury Manx. There's Viva Cohen, too, a painter who is also the lanky, slinking frontman of Jett Rink, and Maria Albani, a Pastelist who plays bass in Pleasant and Un Deux Trois. Michael Triplett is the guitarist in Fin Fang Foom and has had seven gallery openings this year with his photographs. And, Ron Liberti, the dean of them all, has toured the country with Pipe, recorded with The Ghost of Rock and is now building his new band, Victory Factory. He's been designing and screenprinting artwork for rock shows since the early '90s. Neither musicians-as-artists nor shows linking the two are new concepts, but Harrison still feels as though most people often miss the connections.
"I mean, you could conceivably do this show every month with seven different artists," he says, noting that most musicians who work with visual art on the side never make a big deal of it. It's just another outlet for their creativity. "Most of these people don't show their work. Like Bill—no one would ever know that guy paints."
In fact, the idea for the show first resonated with Harrison three years ago when he went to a Super Bowl party at Taylor's house. He was intrigued by the paintings on the wall, but he didn't recognize the artist. When he learned that Taylor had done the paintings and that he had never shown his work in public, Harrison started toying with the idea of an art show of local musicians. He's quick to acknowledge that it's not a new idea and that it required no particular vision on his part. He waited until this April to get to work, when he approached Albani and asked her for help. She had put shows together before, and he was quick to let on that he knew nothing about setting up an art show.
Harrison says he had never even considered the minor but ultimately important questions of an art show: How many pieces can an artist bring? How big can each be? Will the opening have music? Will it be catered? Harrison laughs and admits that he was anticipating rock-show planning: Make some flyers, hang them up, tell the artists when to be where, and just hope for the best. But, from experience, Albani knew otherwise.
"I think we're a lot alike, so it worked out," says Harrison, who started developing the plans for the show in earnest while North Elementary and Pleasant shared a short tour last summer. "She's just a can-do person, and if she agrees to do something, she's going to do it right."
When Harrison talks about the show, he smiles. His excitement is evident, especially when he describes Taylor's paintings or the way Liberti took a weekend to show him a more effective method for screenprinting. For Harrison, it's a chance to revel in creative mindframes for their own sake.
"This work would exist regardless of whether it was in a show. It's about a perspective and a way of seeing the world," says Harrison, who denies any sense of altruism in the show. "I hate to use the term 'giving back' because it's not a completely selfless act. It's something I want to do. If I didn't think there was a reason to do this show, if I didn't think the work was good enough, I wouldn't do it."
Minus Sound Research opens Sunday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at Fuse on Rosemary St. in Chapel Hill. For more, see www.myspace.com/minussoundresearch.