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Art review: 'Instruments' at Solway Jones

July 17, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Clare Rojas -banjos “Instruments,” at Solway Jones, builds on the gallery’s long-standing interest in the line between visual art and sound to present just what its title implies: a selection of artist-designed, sound-producing objects as compelling in their aural as their visual presence.

The works span from the early ’70s through present day. Save a charming trio of stringless banjos painted with folk-art-inspired scenes by Clare Rojas, nearly all are functional and available for demonstration by a gallery associate.

There are a number of string instruments -- two harp-like pieces by Robert Wilhite; another by William T. Wiley; a cello and a bass by William Leavitt -- as well as a trio of gongs (also by Wilhite) and a beautifully carved, long, pale wood structure housing a single piano key and string by Koh Byoung-ok.

Several are purely electronic: Paul De Marinis’ 1973 “Pygmy Gamelan,” for instance, a nondescript device that amplifies ambient radio waves; Nam June Paik’s 1994 “I Wrote This in Tokyo in 1954,” a 144-note music box mechanism nestled inside a vintage television frame, with a miniature video camera transmitting it to the screen; a trio of synthesizers built from children’s electronics; and a lovingly scrappy pair of amplification devices by Dani Tull (who will perform at the gallery July 25).

My favorite, so subtle in the din of the others that one could almost miss it, is Koh’s 2007 “Two Glass Clocks,” which consists of a pair of unmarked pint glasses into which the battery-powered gears of two dismantled clocks have been dropped. Each retains merely a second hand that, pinned by the wall of the glass, taps a steady, deliciously delicate rhythm on the lip.

-- Holly Myers

Solway Jones, 990 N. Hill St., Suite 180, Los Angeles, (323) 223-0224, through Aug. 15. Closed Sunday and Monday.