March 2012: Dickie Landry: SOLO @ Guggenheim

Dickie Landry, SOLO, March 26, 2012 at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Dickie Landry: SOLO
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
March 26th, 2012

From the first note of SOLO, Dickie Landry's saxophone took possession of the Guggenheim. The March 26th concert was a memorial tribute to John Chamberlain, whose career retrospective, Choices, opened at the museum last month. In bringing together artistic genres, this musical commemoration of a renowned sculptor was especially appropriate—Chamberlain's energies flowed in many directions throughout his life. He studied with poets at Black Mountain College and lived through the vibrant, chaotic experimentation of New York in the 60s, choosing automotive hulls over traditional mediums for his sculpture practice. He took up the saxophone himself at over 70 years old. Landry, for his part, is not only a musician but a painter, documentary photographer, and video artist.

Landry has long been actively engaged with the sonic qualities of various architectures. He has played site-specific concerts in many iconic galleries internationally, and was commissioned in 1986 to compose a Mass specifically for Houston's Rothko Chapel. He had also played the Guggenheim once before, as a founding member of the Philip Glass Ensemble. In 1969, the group planned to perform in the rotunda but quickly realized the reverb would shatter their performance into cacophony, and so they used the Guggenheim's theatre instead. Landry found ten minutes, though, to play his saxophone alone in the echoing, cylindrical chamber. The memory of its ethereal acoustics stayed with him, inpiring this solo return over forty years later.

For this recent concert, Landry delved into free-form abstractions. Each note effortlessly rose to the full height of Frank Lloyd Wright's epic structure, bounced off the dome and hovered, enveloping the wandering audience and melding into layered harmonies. His use of silence was exquisite, revealing Wright as an architect of sound and the rotunda itself as an instrument. He periodically allowed his saxophone's echos to fade entirely away so the muted, circulating roar of air and hushed voices could emerge—it was a stunning, otherworldly substratum onto which he poured more vivid, rapidly amassing notes. When he began to climb the ramp, his move away from the center cast powerful sonic ricochets. We, too, wandered slowly up some distance ahead of him, but at moments the sound suggested it was he who had mysteriously ended up ahead of us. The acoustic energy electrified Chamberlain's rippling steel and deep, textured striations, and in return the sculptures lent their myriad buoyant colors to Landry's expansive tones.

SOLO was a beautiful, ephemeral synthesis of art, architecture and sound—a tremendously fitting tribute to the restless vibrance of John Chamberlain's life.

Dickie Landry: Heart is currently showing at Salomon Contemporary as part of the American Responses Exhibition Series, through April 14, 2012

John Chamberlain: Choices
will be on view at the Guggenheim through May 13, 2012