Masch Transforms the Monda for "Volumes"

Gallery

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY AUG 10, 2018

In the beginning there was only darkness. Then Ezra struck his drum, and from the center of space blossomed a bright and terrible light, radiating outwards to envelop the blackness in a cascade of brilliance. The louder he played, the brighter the lights, and from the inky pitch appeared the forms and faces of the people, smiling and watching the world around them explode into existence. Welcome to Volumes, the latest immersive audio/visual installation from the artist Ezra Masch, opening this Sunday at the Ringling Museum in the Monda Gallery.

And for this, Masch’s fourth installation in seven years exploring the connections between sight and sound, the Monda Gallery is transformed. Walls, ceiling and columns painted black, the doors darkened by heavy curtains, the gallery becomes a void—or, to an artist like Masch, a blank canvas. At one end of the room lies a minimalist drum kit—bass drum, floor tom, snare, hi-hat and crash cymbal—where visiting percussionists will sit and play. Throughout the rest of the space, arranged in a geometric scheme like a carefully plotted forest, 41 site-specific columns of wire and light stretch from floor to ceiling, waiting to be activated by the coming performance.

Each column holds five lights at different heights, with each height corresponding to an individual drum, based on pitch. For example, striking the bass drum will cause the bottom light of the center column to illuminate. From there, it becomes a matter of volume, with the louder the strike of the drum, the brighter the light and the farther the gesture radiates out from the center, as successive columns illuminate. The result is something akin to a fleeting sculpture of light, and a reflection of the person behind the percussion. Audiences are encouraged to wander amongst the light, to sit and lay down and let the experience wash over them. “You feel the space come alive,” says Ringling curator Sonja Shea, “and almost see what the drummer is feeling.”

Not the typical exhibition, Volumes will only be open for select times throughout the day—from 11am to noon and from 3pm to 4pm, Tuesday through Sunday—when one of the nearly 60 participating drummers will be performing. And for Masch, letting go of his creation and watching other percussionists make the space their own becomes the most rewarding part. “The drummer is really connected to the space, to the gallery,” he says. “I think of the gallery as an extension of the instrument.” And while most sit down at a drumset and think of beats, Volumes tends to make its participants view the instrument in a different way. “What’s most interesting is when people play shapes and textures,” says Masch.

Opening Sunday in the Monda Gallery, Volumes will be installed through September 9. Special performances are scheduled for August 16, 24, 30 and September 6, when internationally renowned percussionists will visit and put their own spin on the installation. Guests include Taylor Gordon, Brian Blade, Greg Fox and Antonio Sanchez.

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