Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Art Show Captures Pulse of Miami’s Music Underground

As I’m writing this review, I’m listening to Snakehole, an intense all-girl trio from Miami that categorizes itself as having a “punk doom metal-fused sound.” That may be so, but to my slightly older ears, it sounds like New York No Wave music, particularly the atonal caterwauling of Lydia Lunch—a staple in my record collection whenever I want to let out some aggression.

I could be listening online to the six songs on the group’s new, self-titled EP, but I’m cranking it the old-fashioned way, on the band’s officially released cassette tape. As with a lot of noise bands, the cassette tape, revived from technological obsolescence, has become Snakehole’s format of choice, which requires my dusting off a tape/CD/radio boombox that hasn’t been plugged in since the Clinton Administration. The sound is analog and terrible, and yet it’s awesome. The only way it would sound better is if one of the speakers was blown.

In other words, this is not pretty music. It’s not tuneful. You can’t dance to it, unless you slam-dance to it. You won’t hear it in a salon or over a car commercial. But it is very Miami, whose Churchill’s Pub has become grand central for music of all sorts of grimy and radical stripes, from garage rock and noise to speed metal, doom metal and “fastcore,” whatever that is.

Enthusiasm and reverence for the scene, for Churchill’s, and for Miami’s underground music culture fills the galleries at the Art and Culture Center through Nov. 2, in what is likely the most cultish and esoteric exhibition I’ve seen at the eclectic venue. Organized as a way to honor the connection between local music and visual art, the exhibit, titled “Echoes Myron” (named after a classic Guided by Voices cut), thrives on this nexus. A soundtrack of more than 20 tunes plays on repeat in the main gallery, showcasing the music of Snakehole (who performed at the exhibition’s opening), Shroud Eater, Holly Hunt, Nunhex and other staples of the 305 sonic underground.

The art, meanwhile, is a wildly varying collection of art by musicians, art inspired by music, and art advertising music, with Churchill’s acting as a frequent signpost. One piece, Beatriz Monteavaro’s “Castle Churchill,” is a totem to the storied venue, a fortified tribute made of recycled cardboard, cat litter boxes and show flyers; like the club itself, it feels like it’s put together with glue and tape and TLC, a fragile concoction that somehow feels eternal.

Monteavaro, who curated the show with North Carolina artist Priyadarsini Ray, originally was supposed to open a solo show during this slot in the Art and Culture Center’s schedule. But Monteavaro, who performs and tours in Holly Hunt, proposed “Echoes Myron” instead, an exhibit that could integrate her own musical bent as well as those of her peers and a few strangers.

The result runs a gamut from the ethereal to the blunt, the amusing to the disturbing, the quiet to the bludgeoningly loud. The show-stopper of them all is Niuvis Martin’s “Paradise,” a triptych of wood panels featuring painted images of his heavy-metal photography plastered atop religious iconography in Bosch-like abandon. The piece successfully pinpoints the similarities between religious faith and metal fandom, lasering in on the music community’s black-and-denim clad congregants dancing and, in their own head-banging way, davening to their musical messiahs.

Rene Barge’s three-part “Extended Play” (pictured above) is the artist’s example of “post-digital cubism,” a series of manipulated metallic-print abstractions that resemble the noise of so many Miami bands converted to imagery, while Autumn Casey’s “Timeless Viscosity” examines the link between music, sexuality and decadence, highlighted by a beat-up guitar case filled with gummy worms. The collector-nerd in me appreciated Kevin Arrow’s contribution, a wooden shelf full, on both sides, of Grateful Dead bootleg cassettes, fastidiously titled with the city and year of recording.  Other pieces lack a direct connection to music, though musicians presumably created them: David Alexander Bennett’s profound “Transference,” for instance, depicts a human’s midsection being overtaken by machines, a prescient warning about transhumanism and the coming Singularity.

More pieces than not aim to unsettle, much like the music for which they are associated. Rick Smith’s “Alternative MIA” is a compilation of his flyers for underground shows at Churchill’s and other local snakeholes, many of which feature images of gaping skulls, punctured eyeballs, men in hazmat suits, car crashes, and shadowy figures with guns—an appropriately doom-laden way to advertise acts like Eyehategod, Shitstorm, Shroudeater and Drop Dead. The illustrations in the adjoining room are even darker, but there is also plenty of kumbaya on display, as in Teajay Smith’s “Front of the House:” eight photographs taken at Churchill’s shows that speak to the communal aspect of this crazy musical culture.

Obviously, this exhibition isn’t for everyone; if you don’t like the music and you can’t dig the scene, you may not find much value in “Echoes Myron.” But it’s a fascinating state-of-the-culture sort of a show, and if it strains to come up with an overarching coherence, it’s probably because it reflects both the anarchy and diversity of the music.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a tape to flip.

“Echoes Myron” is at the Art and Culture Center, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood, through Nov. 2. Admission costs $7 for adults and $4 for students, seniors and children age 4 to 17. At 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24, the venue will host a panel discussion with five of the artists, which is free for members and $7 for nonmembers. Call 954/921-3274 or visit artandculturecenter.org.

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