Last weekend’s kick off “Art Jam” event at PLATFORM, a giant South Williamsburg loft,
was a fun and inspiring blend of artist practices. The two featured artists, musician Nathan
McKee and visual artist Alison Kuo, collaborated on a handful of works creating an
environment together full of colorful sounds and musical sights.
Planned as an ongoing series where visual art and music “jam” together, each session will
be held around a particular collaboration, giving the musician and artist pair free-range to
produce work around their current practices, while pushing the boundaries of their
respective mediums. Rather than trying to bring art into the music realm or vise versa, it’s
an invitation instead for artists to exist without the labels of their practice by experimenting
beyond their normal processes.
This event was structured in two segments. In the first Alison’s varied works were installed
around the space with specific sculptures accompanied by music which Nathan
pre-recorded. Later, Nathan took to the stage and performed an hour long set of music,
accompanied by video which Alison had prepared for his performance.
Nathan’s music conjures a world of relentless idealism that might just hide a creepy
underbelly. The music feels light-hearted with quiet poppy hooks. His gentle keyboards
and his vocals drowning in syrupy reverb created a soft focus soundscape for
Alison’s work shares this feeling of walking into an alternate world no matter what medium
she’s working in. She created collages, sculptures, and an installation for this show and all
seemed to share a joy of strange objects and extremely bright colors. One piece seemed to
consist of brightly colored plastic deserts laid out on a plastic table inches off the floor. In
another a motorized panda sculpture sways to Nathan’s pre-recorded music. In her
collages, jello molds soar through outerspace and merge with other strange environments.
The work is whimsical, but Alison doesn’t aim to create a dream, per se. Instead she
highlights the unexpected marvelous-ness that exists in Chinatown dollar stores where
much of her raw materials (cheap curious, neon plastic, googly eyes) originate. It is in these
often overlooked stores where where bright colors compensate for poor quality, that Alison
seems to find her inspiration. The contrast of worldly items with the otherworldy
impression of her finished works is somehow instinctively appropriate.
Inspired by this unique loft under the JMZ train platform, the project feels like a natural use
of the space. There is a stage at one end, a bar set-up on the other, and plenty of space for
artwork in between. The relaxed and inclusive environment created during the reception
and performance put everyone in the right mood for the after-party, when a DJ took over
the stage and everyone danced to late 90s tunes under Alison’s bright orange and gold
ceiling installation. I’ll surely be watching their Facebook page where the event’s curator
Kelly Schroer has promised an update on the next Art Jam session this Spring.
by James Holland (writer, filmmaker, photographer, extraordinary gentleman)