Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Peppered with large-scale sculptures, the sprawling property of French artist and collector Bernar Venet also contains a gallery space to host summer exhibitions. Having previously featured Minimalists and Conceptual artists like Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner and Fred Sandback, Venet this year showcases a collective work by avant-garde composer David Tudor, artist Jackie Matisse (Henri’s granddaughter), and filmmaker Molly Davies. (Bafflingly, the exhibition is billed to Tudor only.) Sea Tails, 1983, is a billowing installation of Matisse’s handpainted kites, scrappy and hung in harlequin strips to a curtainlike effect. Complementing this are Davies’ languid videos, tracking the movement of Matisse’s kites in Bahamian water—so blue as to appear chlorinated—against Tudor’s thalassic thrum.

In the catalogue to Matisse’s 2013 exhibition Jeux d’espace, art historian Julie Martin details how both Matisse and Tudor—long-standing collaborators who met through John Cage—gravitated toward found objects: he “electronic components and gadgets he could use, and abuse,” she “fabrics and plastics in many colors, shapes and sizes.” They first combined their interests professionally for the decade-long endeavor Island Eye Island Ear, 1974–83, an ambitious collaboration with Fujiko Nakaya that sought to turn an entire island into a musical instrument_. _Sea Tails hinges on the more localized phenomenon of how ocean currents could stir a kite into a malleable choreography. During an eight-day multiple-dive shoot in Nassau, Davies took a Jacques Cousteau-style approach to film submerged sailcloth and filter paper kites, which playfully multiplied underwater like schools of aquatic creatures. Tudor, a procurer of inventive audio sources (for instance, radio frequencies from motion-sensitive burglar alarms), here produced a submarine soundtrack using microphones sealed in baby-food jars filled with mineral oil. The extracted score, looped on three synchronized videos played across six monitors, offers a palpating Poseidon murmur, formulated from aqueous flux and maritime weather.

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