Hermann Goepfert’s Art of Noise
THE DAILY PIC: A member of 'Zero' brings the movement to raucous life.
This is a view of Hermann Goepfert’s Optophonium, a kinetic work from 1960-61, as installed in the show called “Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s,” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Works from the Zero movement are almost unfailingly pleasing – elegant and sleek, with just a touch of endearing Jetsons futurism. (See the review by my pal Christian Viveros-Fauné: “The Zero Group Scores a Big Goose Egg at the Guggenheim“.) My description would have infuriated those works’ makers, who were convinced they were engaged in world- and art-changing radicalism. The Optophonium revives a bit of that original energy, because its attractive look is supplemented by a quite cacophonic musical component, which plays on a loop at the Gugg. (Click on my image to see and hear a video clip.) The audio was conceived as a kind of aural realization of the sculptural components, which are arranged rather like notes in a score, with lights that are like the lamps on music stands. (So the piece may be a kind of octet.) For reasons that are hard to pin down, the sound of modernist music has managed to stay radical and strange in a way that the look of modernist art has not. It’s still at revolution’s Ground Zero, while the visuals of the era have become a well-tended garden. (Photo by David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York)
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