For These Artists, the Ear Is as Essential as the Eye

Arni Sala's snare-drum installation

WHAT IS SOUND art? The fact is, nobody really knows, including curators, critics and the artists themselves. Is sound in itself art? If yes, isn’t Charlie Parker a sound artist? But what if there is no audio component to the art, but the work evokes an auditory experience? And if you hang a bunch of snare drums from the ceiling upside down, will they drum on their own?


Beginning Jan. 28, The Moody Center for the Arts bravely takes on these and other sound art-related conundrums in their spring 2022 exhibition, Soundwaves: Experimental Strategies in Art + Music. Now in its fifth year, The Moody Center continues its mission to “elevate the many disciplinary intersections with visual art” in this group show of artists for whom the ear is as essential as the eye.

Soundwaves includes Anri Sala’s installation of the aforementioned snare drums, a graphic score by Raven Chacon, and an intriguing series of drawings by Christine Sun Kim, who was born deaf, and is known outside the artworld for her dramatic ASL (American Sign Language) performances of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” at the 2020 Super Bowl.

Other featured artists include two Houstonians, polymath and MacArthur “genius grant” fellow Jason Moranand renowned mixed-media artist Jamal Cyrus. Moran, who grew up in a home filled with art, has constructed performance spaces within galleries and museums based on long lost music clubs, one example being Slug’s Saloon, which is included in CAMH’s current exhibit, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse.

Meanwhile, Jamal, like Houston artists Tierney Malone and Robert Hodge, creates three-dimensional works out of found materials, including brass instruments and vinyl record covers, to engage and reconnect viewers to the history of black American music, especially 60s and 70s-era jazz. Cyrus has created a new work for this exhibit.

Soundwaves will be complemented by a season of performances in the galleries and in the Moody’s black box theater. The exhibit runs through May 28.

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