468 Grand Ave. #3D, Brooklyn
February 16th – June 11th, 2022
Thursday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Blank Forms is pleased to present Jerry Hunt: Transmissions from the Pleroma, the first institutional exhibition dedicated to the videos and sculptures of composer-performer Jerry Hunt (1943–1993). The exhibition, part of Blank Forms’s extensive program focused on the artist, presents a selection of late video pieces, over fifty of the eccentric wands made by Hunt with his friend and assemblage artist David McManaway, and various ephemera, including archival documents, scores, and performance photographs, that trace the artist’s enigmatic and beguiling practice.
Jerry Hunt was a pioneering figure in the development of electronic composition and new music, upending sonic and spiritual conventions of the late twentieth century. With a virtuosic mastery of piano, Hunt spent his early years playing across musical styles with ease, interpreting pieces by contemporary composers Pierre Boulez, John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, while dabbling in jazz and working stints as a strip club pianist before, in the 1960s and ’70s, turning to his own experiments in composition. Hunt, fascinated with the occult from a young age, drew from celestial alphabets and sixteenth century astrology to develop generative scores that he would layer, adapt, and transform over the course of his career. By the late 1970s, he became dissatisfied with traditional instruments and static arrangements and looked to the novel compositional potential of computer-based and motion-activated sound systems. Incorporating infrared detectors, sensors, video cameras, and early computers, Hunt assembled a complex technical apparatus—described by the artist as “interrelated electronic, mechanic, and social sound-sight interactive transactional systems”—that allowed him to produce sound from live gesture alone. These sound systems, activated by the artist’s talismanic props and wild gesticulations, led to the performances for which Hunt is best known: pataphysical, abrasive, and humorous events that initiated viewers into his techno-spiritual world. Memorably described as a shamanic figure with the look of a central Texas meat inspector, Hunt mined the mysticism inherent in modern technology. He lived his entire life in Texas, residing in an adapted barn outside of Canton for the majority of his career, but amassed a small yet dedicated following in Europe and across the United States.
On view together for the first time are Birome [zone]: plane (fixture), Bitom (fixture): topogram, Talk (slice): duplex, and Transform (stream): core (all works ca. 1990–94) from Hunt’s “Four Video Translations” series, alongside two additional videos: Hemisphere (1992), an abstracted exploration of the artist’s body, and How to Kill Yourself Using the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide Gas (1993), Hunt’s final work, a harrowing and methodical instructional film made by the artist after being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
Presented at Blank Forms, Transmissions from the Pleroma is part of an extensive program focused on Jerry Hunt. This includes the republication of Partners, an intimate memoir-cum-biography by the artist’s life-long romantic partner Stephen Housewright; the forthcoming anthology journal Blank Forms 08: Transmissions from the Pleroma; Irida Records: Hybrid Musics from Texas and Beyond, 1979–1986, a deluxe LP boxed set and reader on Hunt’s briefly-lived label; and the first vinyl pressing of Hunt’s final record, Ground: Five Mechanic Convention Streams (1992).
Organized by Lawrence Kumpf and Tyler Maxin.
Jerry Hunt performing at Roulette, New York, 1982. Photo by Lona Foote.
Warning: This exhibit explores themes such as suicide and includes sexual content. Viewer discretion is advised.
Jerry Hunt: Transmissions from the Pleroma is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation and mediaThe foundation inc., with additional funding generously provided by Hilary and Mark Srere.