Many do not know that before becoming a founding member of the undeniably influential Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon moved to New York from LA to establish herself as an artist. Music and art have clearly been important for Gordon throughout her life and career and in her new book, Performing/Guzzling, rather than making a clear distinction between the two, the artist blends the them by giving readers a visual representation of what she sees in the faces of audience members when she performs. The book includes prints of Gordon’s watercolor faces, each distinct from each other in a fuzzed out way. Features are represented by hazy blotches of color that give an overall impression of warmth and wonder. The faces sometimes have a ghoulish glow but inspire a feeling of enchantment that keeps them from becoming too harrowing. Gordon breaks up series of this type of painting with pages of complementary lyrics (“Looking out into the audience, light comes from the projector at the back of the hall. It makes the back of people’s heads look illuminated, like saints”) and “word paintings” that often feature names of bands (such as Noise Nomads and Pussy Galore) rendered in black watercolor that drip to the bottom of the page. Also scattered throughout are mixed media collages that often combine pages of newspaper and photographs with paint and writing. It makes sense that Gordon’s visual art, like her music, would lead viewers to a type of consciousness where nothing is quite tangible and things that are usually distinct are not always clear, but the way in which she approaches the subject encourages viewers to question where one draws the line between music and art and to think about if the two are as separate from each other as they initially seem.
Available through Rizzoli New York. The first 3000 copies include a print signed by Gordon. Images courtesy of Rizzoli New York.