Warner Jepson Indeterminate Convergences
Warner Jepson: Indeterminate Convergences was presented with Dublab and the Estate of Warner Jepson at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock in 2018. The exhibition presented the work of artists closely allied with Jepson largely from his collection which included Ruth Asawa, Larry Bell, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, Richard Faralla, Simone Forti, Anna Halprin, Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, Sam Tchakalian and others. The objective of this exhibition was to highlight the intersection of dance, art, film and electronic/ experimental music, focusing on the legacy of Warner Jepson who played a central role in the fertile cross pollination of these genres through the 1950s-1970s. The exhibition highlighted Jepson’s involvement with the pioneering efforts of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (highlighting the genesis of electronic and tape based music), Anna Halprin’s Dancer’s Workshop, and the revolutionary synthesizer designer Don Buchla. The exhibition expanded upon the curatorial objectives to illustrate the genesis of the current zeitgeist of Los Angeles experimental sound art as part of an evolution that arose from the interchange between Northern and Southern California. These collaborations highlighted the Bay Area’s influence upon LA based sound artists, electronic composers, dancers and video based artists. The exhibition was singular in that it particularly encouraged the collaborative potentiality between experimental/electronic music with dance which was lacking as a currency among the Los Angeles sound and art world. The event presented a holistic view of an autonomous Californian grown aesthetic and cultural identity that is unique among the panorama of American art.
The evening presented never before released music of Jepson while providing the opportunity for local and world renowned sound artists to engage their own music on Jepson’s personal Buchla synthesizer. The audience served the role as curator through chance operation procedure randomly selecting the performers. The event highlighted intersecting genres, re-engaging the elements and community based rituals that catalyzed one of the greatest cultural revolutions in American history.
The Buchla Performance
During the evening music curator Mitchell Brown played unknown tracks of the tape and electronic music of Warner Jepson including his first percussion and electronic collaborations Atom Clock/Field of Heat between drummer Peter Magadini that had been recently discovered.
Warner Jepson’s Buchla featured four artists that are renowned Buchla based sound artists while enlisting 8 LA based sound artists to perform 15 -20 minute indeterminate sets. These sound artists included Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, SFV Acid, Bana Haffar, Thomas Dimuzio and Barry Conley and Dntel.
The Dance Performance
Jasmine Albuquerque casted four LA based dancers who performed live improvisatory dances to the Buchla performances.
Warner Jepson (1930-2011) is one of many critical artists overlooked by history. He is a seminal figure that participated and documented the Beat era. In many ways through his experimental electronic and tape based music he provided a soundtrack that bridged and converged these art movements that were predominantly generated out of the Bay Area. His contribution catalyzed in part not only a cultural revolution, but also what became some of the most notable late 20th century American art movements. He created the sound scores of many groundbreaking films of California Independent cinema including James Broughton’s The Bed, Steven Arnold’s Luminous Procuress while collaborating with Bill Spencer to score ruth weiss’ (sic) The Brink. These films were presented at the Pompidou (2016), Berkeley Art Museum (2017), NY MOMA (2017) and the Tate (2008). Jepson also created the sound scores for many theatre productions notably the San Francisco ballet’s NRA, Totentanz of 1972 (the first electronic scored ballet featuring tape based concrete, dissonant piano- a clip of it is linked above) and Helen Adam’s award winning San Francisco’s Burning.
Jepson is considered a forefather of electronic music as a critical participant of the San Francisco Tape Music Center with projects ranging from a collaboration with Steve Reich along with Terry Riley and Robert Erickson. The Tape Center shared space with Anna Halprin. Jepson created many of her early scores for the Dancer’s Workshop which bore a large influence upon the Judson Theater and Fluxus with her dancers Yvonne Rainer and Simone Forti who Jepson also documented in renowned photos.
The Exhibition began with projecting images onto the CFAER’s California Mission Revival architecture from Warner Jepson’s notable sound score for the first electronic music ballet Carlos Carvajal’s Totentanz with an overlaid image of dancer silhouettes from the production created by Samuel Cormier. The incandescent phenomenology of abstracted projections with an immersive sound score highlighted the central focus of the exhibition presenting the intersection of experimental dance and electronic music.
The entrance lobby featured life size photos of other Jepson scored performances including Carvajal’s Peace along with photographs of Totentanz which were all performed in the 1970’s in San Francisco.
The photography exhibit included Anna Halprin’s performances of Parades and Changes and The Branch along with the enduring photos taken by Jepson of the forefathers of California experimental and electronic music including contact sheets featuring Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Harry Partch, David Tudor and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The exhibition presented never before seen images of a meeting between Tudor, Stockhausen and Partch. This was highlighted by the inclusion of two Harry Partch instruments which were interactively played by visitors engaging them with the ideas of just intonation that critically informed Jepson’s sonic oeuvre.
Another room highlighted the activity of the notable San Francisco Tape Music Center. One monitor playing Robert Erickson’s Music for Toy Pianos (1965) which Jepson performed for television. Also included was a wall biography explaining the genesis of electronic tape based music and its forefathers with a monitor focused on the outcome of the Tape Center activity that resulted in the birth of the light shows and gatherings of the late 1960s. The work of light show pioneer Bill Ham was given two installations. The monitors showed a trajectory of the early minimal electronic and tape based performances, the Trips Festival organized by Ramon Sender, Ken Kesey and members of the SFTMC.
The exhibition featured a wall of large format photos of the dance performances along with Jepson’s abstract photographs. These were grouped in one corner salon style with framed poems of Jepson and other Beat era poets that collaborated with Halprin.
Jepson’s documents of the Watts riots was projected next to Halprin’s Ceremony of Us. This wall also featured Ruth Asawa’s drawings that were the basis of a film made by Jepson for NCET.
A section that yields to the alchemical explorations of the community was made notable by the display of Conner’s drawings and his San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop promotional poster made for Halprin which recalled a metaphysical diagram placed under a Ruth Asawa crown given to Warner’s wife Andrea Jepson.
Also included was a wall biography of the fertile cross pollination of the early Beat era community and how they both lived in Los Angeles creating a vital interchange which influenced both cities. The Semina hand press and stapled publication which Wallace Berman gave Jepson was shown next to his photos of the close community at Larkspur where Berman had a floating gallery. As an example of the encouragement to cross all platforms of media, the paintings of Warner Jepson are shown with his close friends Sam Tchakalian and the sculptures of Richard Faralla. Art was often traded with friends and a highlight of the Jepson collection includes the four works of Robert Morris presented at the 1959 Dilexi Gallery show in SF. These are presented with the photos Jepson took of Morris and Simone Forti installing the exhibition.
The ephemera cases richly highlighted the interchange between poets, composers artist and dance in the Bay Area and document the interchangeabilty of media encouraged by the community. Jepson’s photographs and ephemera collection documented contributors of the Light and Space movement, Conceptualism, Minimalism, Fluxus and their pioneers. Warner Jepson’s participation in the exhibition Plasticity will also present Light and Space Artists that he scored groundbreaking exhibitions for such as Larry Bell and Robert Irwin.
Conceptual artists Tom Marioni collaborated with the curatorial to have a vintage telephone allow visitors to listen to his MOCA FM performance. This 1971 performance featured artists Jepson, Wally Hedrick, Robert Ashley, Terry Fox, Paul Kos, William T.Wiley, present 1 minute sonic works that were broadcasted on KPFA.
The exhibition projected three films in the assembly hall on large monitors throughout the night that Jepson scored. James Broughton’s The Bed (1968), ruth weiss’ (sic) The Brink (1959-60,)Paul Beattie’s A Thimble of Goodbye (1963) and Steven Arnold’s Luminous Procuress (1971). Also included was a never before seen Jepson film titled Parade (1969) featuring Yvonne Rainer.
The shelves along the walls of the Assembly Room featured vintage monitors playing the video synthesizer experiments of the National Center for Experiments in Television which showed at the Getty’s California Video (2008) exhibition and were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Sonoma Museum. The Assembly room wall featured projections of the dancers with Lumia based light effects that were used during the NCET experiments.