It’s the kind of collaborative improv that cities are made of. A bunch of separate people set up shop on a main street block and do their thing. The sum of their parts makes the neighborhood.
Improv is the creative force behind the art and music in two neighborhoods Friday night, as Zygote Press opens Three Artists, One Exquisite Wall with a reception in their St. Clair-Superior galleries. Meanwhile, in a west side neighborhood that is NOT Gordon Square, Tremont, or Ohio City, Chuck Karnak has jumpstarted All Go Signs with an avant garde jazz show that comes right on the heels of his multimedia event last weekend.
At Zygote, three artists who haven’t worked together before found themselves gathered and taking turns with the same set of walls—each adding to the whole, then stepping aside for the next to do their thing. In their artistic careers, Melissa Daubert, Cory Slawson, and Melinda Placko all have made it a point to reach out with their art, making the community and the urban environment a part of it.
The ways they’ve done that, though, are diverse. Melissa Daubert’s whimsical, interactive sculptures are very different from Cory Slawson’s vacant lot intervention of a few years ago, or from the informative and thoughtful Hotel Bruce blog she co-founded, and both of those are different from the ways Melinda Placko has–for example–involved children in sidewalk chalk drawing via Young Audiences.
What they have in common besides that relationship to surroundings is an overt insistence on engagement. That’s certainly the case in their show that opens at Zygote Press this week. For Three Artists: One Exquisite Wall, curators Elizabeth Emery and Stephanie Kluk assembled the three women to improvise together, each taking turns with one of Zygote’s galleries to make one collaborative installation.
The resulting environment evokes planetary calamity with cheery colors and somehow fitting whimsy. A tormented sky in vivid blue is split by a lightening strike that seems dangerously close to some stenciled barrels of something that looks hazardous.
The air around all that is being sucked into a floor-to-ceiling tornado that has ripped a tree out, roots and all. Mossy, sculpted Humanoid action figures are floating in the atmosphere. On one wall a torrent of trash—fast food packaging, duct tape, and other paper waste—seem to have been sucked toward the gathering storm.
The thing is consummated—its message driven home—as result of the artists’ synergy: Some of Melissa Daubert’s mossy humanoid action figures seem to be pulling on some of Cory Slawson’s tape, which extends into the tornado clouds: it’s as if mankind is pulling strings, and the result is this whimsical planetary calamity. How it all resolves itself is anyone’s guess. Zygote Press is at 1410 East 30th St. For info., call 216-621-2900, or go to zygotepress.com. Opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m., with artists talk at 7:30. Free.
ALL GO MUSIC
After that it’s worth the drive around the Innerbelt to the All Go Signs warehouse at West 96th Street off Madison, where the whimsical calamity of improvised music rages, without polish or apology. If you want to find out where Cleveland’s experimental musical underground grooves, this is it.
But first, some background. Because in the first half of 2011, All Go Signs is awaking from a long sleep.
For several years Go Signs grand wizard Chuck Karnak did his own thing, throwing big, multimedia parties in his west side warehouse space: Bands would rock the stage, artists would rock the walls, and dance companies would rock the house, stiltwalking through the crowd, or hanging from the ceiling on silk scarves. Karkak’s skill was in showing off other people’s work—enabling other people to do their thing.
Then Karnak got busy with other people’s business in another way, as one of the region’s most versatile and adventurous production managers. After running spaces for Ingenuity for several years—booking stages, handling lights, imagining how the urban environment could be used to show off art and performance—he moved up to managing production for the whole shebang, including last year’s Bridge project. He did dance shows. He worked on big benefits.
All that kept him busy enough that he put his own big warehouse shows on hold. For years, the only events on Go Signs home turf was an intimate, monthly gathering of hardcore jazz improvisers. Each month Dan Wenninger’s Oblique Orchestra anchored an evening, playing with some of the region’s other major musical risk takers—from duets to larger groups. Musicians blowing traditional jazz instruments or exotic equipment from the far east would get up on stage with no plan but to make noise together.
Last weekend Karnak blew the dust off his big show, hosting a music, dance and art extravaganza at his warehouse for the first time in about 4 years. Highlights included Hot Cha Cha, Ohio Sky, and dancers from the SAFMOD diaspora. Karnak is putting another warehouse sized show together for the summertime.
But in the mean time, he and Wennenger offer more adventurous jazz, including a performance Friday night featuring three improv jazz acts: Wizards, up from Columbus, is rooted in free jazz, motivated by the spiritual connection between improvisers. The band’s explorations are built around sax player Hasan Abdur Razzaq, who came of age musically in Cleveland in the early 70s. His sound is influenced both by Baptist preaching and by Arabic music. He also performs on hand percussion and electric cello. Adam Smith performs on drums, as well as synthesizers. Gerard Cox adds rhythm to the wizard mix with a strong left hand on the keyboard filling the role of the bass.
The show starts at 9 p.m. All Go Signs is at 1935 W. 96th. Admission: $5 at the door.