Yesterday, I went to the Guggenheim. While there, I took in “Grey Area, an exhibit of Julie Mehretu artwork. Taking in her large-scale, informationally-dense works, I thought about the recent New Yorker piece on the artist. In turn, that prompted thoughts of another piece from the same publication – Sasha Frere-Jones’s essay on noise-rock. Specifically, this bit about Yellow Swans:
Yellow Swans broke up in 2008, leaving a last album, “Going Places,” released only this year, whose tracks have titles but certainly don’t resemble songs. One called “Sovereign” is several slowly undulating waves of grainy, high-mid-range noise whose source is unclear. The result is simultaneously organic and mechanical. Freed from songs, the sounds draw attention to how odd machines can feel, and how powerful. Abstract noise sends the mind searching for concrete comparisons: clunking hard drives, breaking wires, muffled phones, turnstiles.
Many of these phrases would serve as equally apt descriptors for Mehretu’s art, I’d argue. And while the immersive qualities of the overwhelming scale on which she works aren’t unique, her process, and its incorporation of technological processes and layered construction, seems to oddly mirror some of the artists referenced in Frere-Jones’s piece. I don’t know that the analogy holds up under greater scrutiny, but thought it was worth mentioning.