Lightning Speak: Solo and Collaborative Work of Raven Chacon

On view in the Jonson Gallery
January 29 – May 14, 2016
with an opening reception, Friday, January 29, 6 – 8 pm
preceded by a members’ preview at 5 pm*

Curated by Joyce Szabo, Ph.D., Interim Curator, University of New Mexico Art Museum, and Professor, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico

Many forces, natural and human made, create both visual images and sounds.  Some of these are subtle while others are not. Lightning Speak: Solo and Collaborative Work explores various ways in which visuality and aurality combine and diverge. At the center of the exhibit, Raven Chacon (b. 1977; Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, AZ) works with sound and image in complex ways. The exhibition showcases Raven’s work with various others with whom he has and continues to interact artistically while simultaneously exhibiting work solely his own.

As a part of an international collaboration with Canadian as well as United States artists, Raven worked on Gauge (2013-2015), the massive three-channel video that is premiering here. The artists painted bands and other shapes with natural pigments and ash on an iceberg. We watch as the snow and ice change form with different light, then fall and allow the color to disperse. The work effectively relays the temporary nature of our intervention in one sense and the continuing disruptive effects of global warming in another.

One of Raven’s most intriguing works, While Contemplating Their Fate in the Stars, The Twins Surround the Enemy (2003), enables two zebra finches to discover their ability to interact with a pitch theremin placed in their cage. Throughout the exhibition, the birds vary the pitch of the sound emanating from the theremin simply by moving their bodies. Ultimately they harmonize with the instrument as they adjust their chirping to the instrument’s tones.

Musical works include specific compositions as well as ambient sound pieces. Report (2001) has been created for various weapons with differing calibers —handguns, shotguns, revolvers and rifles, each with its own sound. The arrangement, with its abrupt sounds, is interspersed with pauses. Raven speaks of these weapons, most noted for violence, defense and power, now as mechanisms for musical resistance.

<b>Raven Chacon</b> (b. 1977), <i>Report</i>, 2001 (video still), Video, Courtesy of the artist.

Raven Chacon (b. 1977), Report, 2001 (video still), Video, Courtesy of the artist.

<b>Raven Chacon</b> (b. 1977), <i>While Contemplating their Fate in the Stars, the Twins Surround the Enemy</i>, 2003, Installation, Courtesy of the artist.

Raven Chacon (b. 1977), While Contemplating their Fate in the Stars, the Twins Surround the Enemy, 2003, Installation, Courtesy of the artist.

Main Image:
Danny Osbourne, Patrick Thompson, Alexa Hatanaka, Sarah McNair-Landry, Eric McNair-Landry, Erik Boomer, and Raven Chacon, Gauge, (2013-2015), Courtesy of the artist.

*members’ previews are open to Sustaining Members and higher of the UNM Art Museum.

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