Live: Turning Punk Rock Into High Art At Live With Animals

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courtesy of Violet Times
One of Electric Eel John Morton's surfing skeletons.
Foggy Notion Art Show Opening: art by Neil Michael Hagerty, Hamish Kilgour, Timmy Vulgar, John Morton, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Oblivia, and Peggy Snow; live performances from Sightings and Garbage River
Live With Animals
Friday, June 10

Better than: Sipping cheap Cabernet in a stuffy Chelsea gallery.

Musicians, especially those who've never made waves outside D.I.Y. circles, have often faced hurdles when trying to attract critical attention from the legitimate art world. By and large the two disciplines remain separate, save a few isolated cases—R. Crumb has dabbled wiith old-timey music as part of the Cheap Suit Serenaders; Billy Childish (whose prolific musical output is matched by the sheer volume of the paintings and woodcuts he has produced since the late '70s) became a critic favorite alongside the rise of former girlfriend Tracey Emin and the Stuckist movement; Jerry Garcia managed to amass a substantial (yet largely forgettable) portfolio of oil paintings and matching neckties in the last decade of his life.

And yeah, punk rock ain't exactly high art. But James Englebeck, who runs the label Violet Times label, is hoping to change that.

On Friday night, the Foggy Notion Art Show opened at Live With Animals, one of the two exhibition spaces in Monster Island. The show boasts visual work from a large swath of underground music icons—members of The Clean, Clone Defects, Human Eye, Smegma, Royal Trux, Pussy Galore, and The Electric Eels—and far from being a mere showcase of album art, flyers, and t-shirt designs, Engelbeck's aim is to "disconnect the names from their day jobs and let the work stand on its own merits." The works vastly differed in size, theme, and scale: Electric Eel John Morton displayed minimalist surfing skeletons; Timmy Vulgar of Human Eye showcased surrealistic sci-fi drawing and collage pieces; Mad Scene and Clean frontman Hamish Kilgour exhibited ink and paper sketches; and Cherry Blossom Peggy Snow showed oil canvases that actually recall the paintings of the aforementioned Childish.

Englebeck briefly explained the idea behind the show: "All of these people have been making music steadily for years, some going all the way back to the early 1970s, and the records often came housed in really compelling sleeves which were also often done by the musicians themselves. These guys are all well known and respected in musical circles but their visual art, which has existed simultaneously alongside their music, has for the most part been overlooked by the public." Pablo Picasso may have never been called an asshole, but then again he never draped himself in a live squid or took a blowtorch to a vacuum cleaner in a small, packed club, as Vulgar has been known to do on occasion.

The night was capped off with live performances from Brooklyn noise mainstays Sightings and Garbage River, an improvisational eardrum-shattering collaboration between Timmy Vulgar of Human Eye (whose work was on display) and Jimbo Easter, erstwhile frontman of Detroit's Pirahnas.

Critical bias: A disproportionate amount of my own youth was spent zonked out listening to records by the artists in the show and staring blankly at the record sleeves for hours on end.

Overheard: "I'm not happy to see you; that's just a can of beer shoved in my jeans pocket."

Random notebook dump: You can really see just how filthy your clothes actually are in the adjoining gallery, which is currently hosting a neon blacklight poster art show.

Foggy Notion runs through the end of the month, with live performances from former Electric Eel John Morton and The Tenses (featuring Ju Suk Reet Meate & Oblivia) on June 17 and a closing-night party on the 26th with The Cherry Blossoms and Mad Scene, which include Snow and Kilgour, respectively, among their ranks.


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