Brion Gysin Dream Machine Retrospective at NYC’s New Museum


Original Dreamachine Sculpture by Brion Gysin – 1916 -1986 (Image Source)

It is a wee bit of an understatement to say that I see a lot of art. I always find it to be such a curious surprise when discovering something “new” in the art world involves me being introduced to an artist’s body of work decades after that artist’s death. Usually, the works are so vast and impressive that I can’t believe I never heard of that person before. It happens more than I would like to admit. Geoffrey and I had this experience again yesterday when we popped in to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Manhattan and were delighted by Brion Gysin: Dream Machine – neither one of us being at all familiar with Gysin’s amazing art or very interesting life story.

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine is the first US retrospective of Gysin’s work, which includes a comprehensive variety of mediums or par with, say, Andy Warhol. The exhibition includes over 300 drawings, books, paintings, photo-collages, films, slide projections and sound works, as well as an original Dreamachine – a kinetic light sculpture that utilizes the flicker effect to induce visions when experienced with closed eyes. In 1959, according to he museum’s write up on the exhibit, “Gysin created the Cut-Up Method, in which words and phrases were literally cut up into pieces and then rearranged to untether them from their received meanings and reveal new ones. His Cut-Up experiments, which he shared with his lifelong friend and collaborator William S. Burroughs, culminated in Burroughs and Gysin’s The Third Mind, a book-length collage manifesto on the Cut-Up Method and its uses. Transferring this notion to experimenting with tape-recorded poems manipulated by a computer algorithm, Gysin created sound poetry and was among the earliest users of the computer in art.”

Artists, poets and musicians citing Gysin as an influence include John Giorno (who was Gysin’s lover), Brian Jones, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Genesis P-Orridge and Keith Haring, among many others. I really enjoyed all of the works on view and especially loved learning something about how Gysin lived and his philosophy of art and life, but my favorite of Gysin’s works at the New Museum were his many colorful, abstract paintings that include his use of calligraphy-like writing that was inspired by both Japanese and Arabic scripts. Beautiful and intriguing.

The New Museum is super-strict about not allowing any photography of their exhibits (even >Geoffrey, who is usually so talented when it comes to avoiding the gaze of the Art Nazi’s, was unsuccessful at getting any images in his camera) so I can’t give you much of a preview of the exhibit. You are going to have to drop by yourself, but trust me, it will be worth it.

Dream Machine runs through October 3, 2010 at New Museum (second floor gallery) 235 Bowery, NYC.

2 thoughts on “Brion Gysin Dream Machine Retrospective at NYC’s New Museum

  1. To only get a picture of that wall as you walked into the exhibit. Gay, sad, alone, multi-dimensional…. or whatever they said about him.

    And the art Nazi’s at the New Museum seriously need to get over their trip. The other exhibit which took up two floors of the museum was total crap!

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