October 1, 2011 — January 8, 2012

This fall, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents a genre-crossing installation by metalsmith and former artist-in-residence, Gabriel Craig, and Houston-area composer, Michael Remson. Comprised of video, audio, and sculptural elements and rooted in the idea that forging metal is an act of music making, Soundforge encourages audiences to engage with the installation through both physical and musical interaction. HCCC is the first venue for this unique installation, which was designed specifically for the small gallery space. The exhibition is on view October 1, 2011 – January 8, 2012.

Gabriel Craig and Michael Remson have collaborated on the concept, execution and implementation of this piece since late 2009. The primary visual element of Soundforge consists of massive, gate-like steel structures that the audience can “play” as larger-than-life instruments, in a manner similar to a xylophone. Using a mallet, participants can strike the steel structures at various points to create different tones. The structures, which reference historic wrought-iron motifs, are complemented by a fifteen-minute, original music composition and a video of forging that encourages the audience to interact with the work. The composition, which is influenced by Balinese Gamelan and Phillip Glass’ minimalist music, is created from the recorded sounds of Craig forging steel in his studio. With Soundforge, Craig and Remson have interpreted craft not only as finished objects—the steel structures and video—but also as the “crafting” of a musical score.

HCCC Curator, Anna Walker, commented, “Soundforge creates an incredible learning opportunity for those interested in music to explore craft and vice-versa. This installation is truly unique because of its cross-disciplinary approach to craft and the element of audience interaction. As an exhibition, the piece promotes community engagement, collaboration among different types of artists, and an understanding of craft as a process of making.”

As a metalsmith, writer and craft activist, Gabriel Craig has always been interested in the intersection of craft with other disciplines. His work often encompasses a larger message than that of a finished object. Craig’s studio work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and his critical writing has appeared in various publications, including Metalsmith, American Craft, and FiberArts magazines. He completed artist residencies at HCCC in 2009-2010, and at Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010. He is currently an adjunct instructor in metalsmithing at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. Craig received his BFA from Western Michigan University and his MFA in Jewelry and Metalworking from Virginia Commonwealth University. Soundforge is his largest project to date and his first collaboration with a composer.

Michael Remson is the Executive and Artistic Director of American Festival for the Arts (AFA). A Houston-area composer whose work has been performed throughout the U.S. and Europe, Remson is simultaneously a composer, librettist, author and educator. He has received awards and grant support from the American Music Center and Houston Arts Alliance, along with numerous fellowships and residencies, including The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Ragdale Foundation, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Remson completed doctoral studies in composition and libretto writing with Grammy Award-winner Carlisle Floyd, Robert Nelson, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward Albee. He is an alumnus of New York University, the University of Houston, and Carnegie Mellon University. This project represents the first time he has contributed his music to the creation of a large-scale art installation.

Above, from left to right: Grabriel Craig working in his resident studio at HCCC, 2010. Photo by HCCC. Gabriel Craig and Michael Remson, Soundforge (detail). Mild steel, wooden mallets. Photo by Gabriel Craig. Michael Remson, photo courtesy of Michael Remson.