Visual Music, which opened Wednesday night at the Hirshhorn, is a show worth seeing. If you happen to be in town this Saturday the 25th, then I would recommend going during the hours of 9:30 PM and 2 AM, when the museum will be open for Cosmic Drift - a “light show visual music experience” - by Joshua White and Gary Panter and music by Norman Hathaway. Hey, any museum that is open until 2 AM is at the top of the cool list in my book. So hop a cab over there after you’re good and wasted from the earlier part of your Saturday night. Of course, you may want to moke-say an at-fay oint-jay, if you happen to be of that nature, and you are guaranteed a delightful show. For the rest of us who don’t partake in special brownies, the show has some very strong pieces to delight your senses nonetheless.
The strength in Visual Music is by far the black and white film about half way through the show. I’d be able to tell you the name and artist, but the website for the show surprisingly doesn’t mention it, and I didn't write it down when I was there (Sorry!) This twenty-minute video is beautifully hand-made, quiet and profound. The geometric shapes dance across the screen, with all of their beautiful imperfections. With this piece, you can truly imagine the music that inspired it. This piece is, in fact, visual music. While watching it Disney’s Fantasia came to mind - I’m certain there are many of you who may hate Fantasia and Mr. Disney himself for that matter, but I think it was a genius film and a great idea (he actually wanted to make a new movie each year but was not met with encouragement). Anyway.
The paintings, photography and drawings are a smart way to start the show, and the transition from 2-D into the many video pieces is decent. A better mix of the two would have been more desirable, but I think the show as a whole is well put together. Jim Hodges Corridor is especially cool.
Georgia O’Keefe’s pieces are gorgeous, as well those of Paul Klee. I will say I’m not sure just what Steiglitz’ Equivalent cloud photographs were in the show, but, well, you could stretch some meaning into that if you had to (but only if you had to).
Some of the neon-color video pieces, with their added hippy music, are just a bit much. While the earlier pieces in the show are clearly influenced by the music, these recent works are illustrating the music - think Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix. And while they may be able to stand in their own right as art, in the Hirshhorn, for pete’s sake, well - you might ask yourself - This is art? In the Hirschhorn? For pete’s sake!
Maybe it’s just the stigma that comes with the idea of hippies and the music of their generation. I mean, they may have stood for peace and love, but did they have to be so stoned all the time? It makes it very hard to take them seriously. Whereas with classical music, well, there’s no bad stigma there. People who listen to classical music are smart and read books and talk about important stuff.
It’s not surprising that Visual Music happens to fall in the summer tourist-season months, but it is worth a closer look from the locals. This show is on view until September 11th, so you have no excuse for not going, and no, “I can’t find my bong” is not a good excuse. Borrow a friend’s. Sheesh.