Using the breaking and reformation of a thousand vinyl records, artists Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis interpret the creation of the cosmos. The relics of this process and its final cacophonous product are on view at Pierogi gallery in Williamsburg.
Taking a line from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 sci-fi novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, My God, It’s Full of Stars started at Nashville’s United Record Pressing. There 500 grooveless black records, and 500 grooveless white records, were made, only to be shattered by volunteers against a grey wall (a perhaps heavy-handed suggestion of black and white color mixing). A video of the destruction projects against one wall in Pierogi, in which bits of dark and light vinyl pile up against the shattering noise. This sound was recorded on one side of new records pressed from the shards, with the other side imprinted with the sounds of the records’ creation.
Cosmic references aside, the project is definitely a successor to “Box with the Sound of Its Own Making” by Robert Morris from 1961 — a wooden cube which played a recording of its construction. That along with the 2001 reference and the vinyl record itself make the whole project a bit of an art and pop culture throwback. One of the Harmony of the Spheres records made from the melting of black and white vinyl bits spins silently in the gallery, the uncut edges from the pressing process left in a gnarled ring of encircling plastic. While the LP’s birth, death, and rebirth is on center stage — with limited edition box sets available — the experiments with the vinyl byproducts can be just as interesting. In “OMG, It’s Full of Stars,” raw PVC beads act as the darkness of the universe over a flat screen while suggestions of galaxies and stars beautifully emerge from the cracks; “Oddity” has a record reduced to a black blob meant to look like a meteorite. The two feel more immediately engaged in the vinyl record-cosmos crossover.
My God, It’s Full of Stars, which was exhibited in another edition earlier this year at Zeitgeist Gallery near United Record Pressing in Nashville, is the first New York solo show for the duo of Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis. Cooley has exhibited with Pierogi before, with last year’s Skyward film installation on the ceiling of the Boiler. Together they’ve also collaborated on the video and installation “Through the Skies for You” (2013), a tribute to the missing ship of 17th century explorer Robert de La Salle, lost somewhere in Lake Michigan. Both artists have an intense interest in process and the materials, and while you might not think of the Big Bang or black holes or the formation of universes when you accidentally drop a vinyl record, there can be these grand echoes even in the simplest of destructions.
Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis: My God, It’s Full of Stars continues at Pierogi (177 North 9th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) through July 27.