KEVIN COOLEY and PHILLIP ANDREW LEWIS
My God, It’s Full of Stars
13 June – 13 July, 2014
Extended through 27 July
Friday, 13 June. 7-9pm
In My God, It’s Full of Stars, collaborative team Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis expand the production of a common object, a vinyl record, into a metaphor for the cosmos. In distilling the malleability of vinyl to the properties of carbon — the building block of life — the artists probe the dynamics of the universe and ask fundamental questions about its origin and evolution. The exhibition celebrates the release of Harmony of the Spheres, a limited edition long play record box set, and an exhibition of new artwork created during the manufacturing of this experimental phonograph.
The exhibition’s title borrows a line from the defining moment in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey when the last surviving crew member speaks these words while staring into the mysterious monolith — whose origin, composition, and purpose resist revelation. My God, It’s Full of Stars mixes the ancient philosophy of musica universalis along with modern scientific theories such as the point of singularity, and big bang theory.
The artists commissioned United Record Pressing in Nashville to make five hundred black and five hundred white vinyl records, all without sound grooves. At the factory, Cooley and Lewis oversaw the entire production process from raw material to finished product. The artists then filmed a performance during which volunteers hurled the blank disks against a gray gallery wall. The resulting broken vinyl fragments were returned to United and remade into a second generation record of coexisting black and white vinyl, each a unique blend of the original material. Etched on the new record are the sounds of its own formation and original ruin. At each stage in this process, Cooley and Lewis generated various other works, including photographs, photograms, videos, and sculptures approximating black holes, galaxies, meteorites, and other celestial entities.
Limited to an edition of one hundred, Harmony of the Spheres LP box set includes a unique, 180 gram audiophile phonograph and a signed and numbered liner note. Each box also contains a unique Vinyl Object photogram, created by arranging record fragments on analog photographic paper. The included catalog, Open Cluster, presents a taxonomy of each of these various, elemental shapes, inspired by scientific charts documenting Messier Objects – mysterious comet-like clusters in space.
Other works in the exhibition are Plane of Impact, a two-channel video of the record-breaking performance; My God, It’s Full of Stars, a large backlit galaxy made only of raw pvc pellets; Oddity, a blowtorched vinyl record resembling a meteorite; and Sounds in Space, a turntable endlessly spinning an inaudible Harmony of the Spheres record.
In the interplay between examination of materiality and poetic references to theory forms Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis’s creative practice, driving their work into unexpected territory. Their works consistently act as meditation on process. They set out to understand the boundaries and limitations of materiality while often pushing their experiments to the point where the media begins to fall apart and break down. At the point of ruin, they engage in the process of putting the materials back together both in physical and in conceptual terms. Using these cycles of creation and destruction, their work summons reflection on the ever-evolving nature of the universe itself.
This is the first New York solo exhibition for Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis, and Cooley’s second exhibition with Pierogi (last year Cooley’s Skyward was shown at The Boiler). Their first collaborative commission Through the Skies for You won the 3-D Award at ArtPrize 2013 (Grand Rapids, MI). In the forward of their book – A Short Period of Intense Collaboration – critic Michael Wilson describes their practice, stating that “shared fascination with such natural occurrences and their sometimes-unexpected intersections with human culture have already made their collaboration extraordinarily fruitful, but far from being a fait accompli, it is still evolving, its fusion of the observed and the imagined resulting in a living methodology and a set of works that are genuinely—and thrillingly—experimental.”