Grand Ole Opera
Stewart & Stewart

Pioneer Works is pleased to present Grand Ole Opera, a large-scale installation by Tennessee-born artists Willie Stewart and Brent Stewart. Raised by a strong matriarchy, Willie was born into a motorcycle club where all his male influences were indefinitely incarcerated. Brent was raised in a strict Christian household and is a filmmaker. They met in a bar years ago and connected over a shared interest in cinematic space—equal parts B-movies and home video memories. This exhibition, their institutional debut in the United States, also serves as a venue for a related series of noise, metal and rock concerts, staged within a revival tent.

The exhibition takes its title from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, which was originally a Southern swipe at the respectable Northern Opera house. Over the years, the Opry has had its rebels; country music star Bob Wills appalled purists when he insisted on performing his set with drums, which marked an iconoclastic break with tradition and threatened the hallowed “Home of American Music”; Johnny Cash broke all the lights on stage with a microphone stand.

Inspired by these musical transgressions, Grand Ole Opera also references the insights of Dan Graham’s video essay Rock My Religion (1982-84), in which Graham linked 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 corrupt and uncivilized.

Within the exhibition, cinematic tableaus reveal a truck tuned to AM radio; bizarre trailer-homes containing surreal sculptural landscapes; a perpetually-burning sun projected under a revival tent, which doubles as a stage; a nomadic biker bar built by Jason Grunwald and Greg Minnig of the Deth Killers of Bushwick; and Romulus and Remus, who nursed at a wolf’s breast and founded ancient Rome, found in a bar-fight.

Together the Stewarts conjure their own personal story 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.

Grand Ole Opera contains explicit content and may not be suitable for children. 

Grand Ole Opera Concert Series

June 11: Deradoorian at Second Sundays
June 23: Lightning Bolt with Kill Alters and Twig Harper
June 24: Black Pus with Burning Star Core and Eartheater
July 7: Wolf Eyes with Jackie Lynn of Circuit des Yeux and Dreamcrusher
July 9: Unlocking the Truth at Second Sundays 
July 14: Sleep
July 15: Sleep
July 19: Fushitsusha
July 20: Fushitsusha
July 21: Hank Wood and the Hammerheads with Show Me the Body, Surfbort, and Suicide Slide
July 28: Puce Mary with Pedestrian Deposit and Bob Bellerue
July 29: A Place to Bury Strangers, Moor Mother, Uniform, and Author & Punisher


Special thanks to

Curatorial Assistant
Vivian Chui

Technical Direction
James Clark
Justin Frye

Daniel Kent
Allyn Hughes
Will Rhodes

Chief Installers
Julian Townley
Jason Grunwald

Music Programming
Greg Fox
Marco Orozco

Lighting Design
Joel Fitzpatrick

Daniel Thompson

Install Crew & Support
Federico Escalante
Akeem McDermitt
Michael Kelly
John McGill
Carlos Perez
Vincent Sicilio
Walker Waugh