Pioneer Works is pleased to present Grand Ole Opera, a performative exhibition by Tennessee-born artists Willie Stewart and Brent Stewart. The exhibition marks the Stewarts’ institutional debut in the United States.
In 1944, country music star Bob Wills appalled purists when he insisted on performing his set with drums at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Drums marked an iconoclastic break with tradition which threatened the hallowed “Home of American Music.” Inspired by Wills, the Stewarts’ Grand Ole Opera stages immersive theatrical installations that recreate their Southern heritage and childhood experiences, paying homage while complicating and transgressing the clichés of the American South.
Within Grand Ole Opera, cinematic tableaus reveal a scorched truck tuned to AM radio; a nomadic biker bar; a perpetually burning sun projected inside a revival tent; flickering television monitors; and bizarre trailer-homes containing surreal sculptural landscapes and visual ephemera of both artists’ works. Adopting the role of twin brothers Romulus and Remus from Ancient Roman legend, the Stewarts act out a bar fight in a new video installation which casts Southern alienation in a mythological light. Grand Ole Opera outlines the Southern cultural landscape and the characters, both real and prescribed, who inhabit it.
The exhibition lastly transforms a traditional Southern evangelical revival tent into a venue for a noise, metal and rock music performance series, referencing Dan Graham’s influential film Rock My Religion (1982-84). Just as Graham tapped the vein of extremism in American culture by linking ecstatic spectacles of contemporary rock concerts with the Shakers’ trance-dance exorcisms, Grand Ole Opera argues that a symbiotic relationship exists between dogma and the seething subcultures that traditionalists decry as corrupted and uncivilized. Though often maligned, these subcultures actually sow dissent and allow for creative genesis.
Together, the installations evoke an America that is both violent and sublime, defined less by prescribed decorum but is rather constantly mutating through a simultaneous appropriation and dissemination of culture. Objects and movements resonate with a peculiar tone and timbre: a U.S. toy soldier manufactured in China for children abroad who may later kill or be killed; relief agencies making air-drops in Haiti of Guns N’ Roses T-shirts supplied by a sweatshop in Manila; psychics selling fantasies roadside or on TV; millions of bottles of Coca-Cola floating in the trash gyre of the Pacific Northwest. The soundtrack of this America is Doom and Sludge Metal, Japanese noise music, rock and psychedelic punk.
This sound is encapsulated within the walls of the revival tent in a line up of live performances by Sleep, Lightning Bolt, Wolf Eyes and more.
Grand Ole Opera Concert Series
June 11: Angel Deradoorian at Second Sunday
June 23: Lightning Bolt
July 7: Wolf Eyes, Jackie Lynn, Dreamcrusher
July 14: Sleep
July 15: Sleep
July 19: Fushitsusha
July 20: Fushitsusha
July 21: Hank Wood and the Hammerheads
July 28: Bob Bellerue, Pedestrian Deposit
July 29: The Body, Author & Punisher, Moor Mother