April 18, 2013

Portrait of a musician as artist


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Adrian Carr’s twin passions are art and music.

The Grammy-nominated recording engineer’s exhibition, “The Hidden Art of Adrian Carr: A Retrospective 1984-2007” opens Saturday at the ROTA Gallery and Studios in Plattsburgh.

“When I was growing up in Buffalo, I had to choose between art and music. I was doing art classes at the State Teachers College with Debbie Lloyd. And at the same time, I was doing music,” Carr said.

Lloyd, his high-school art teacher, invited him to attend evening classes at Buffalo State.

“What’s interesting, I still have one of my first oil paintings, (and) that will be at the ROTA Gallery,” Carr said. “It’s a field on my grandmother’s farm. When we say a retrospective, it’s really a retrospective. It’s going back to my early adolescent days in Buffalo.”

“The Hidden Art of Adrian Carr” features mostly oil paintings but also watercolors and sketches.

For oil, he needs space and time. His watercolors date to the 1980s when he was living in Washington Heights in New York City.

“I did a series called the ‘Subway Series’ of train scenes from the ‘80s. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t ‘Sex and the City’ at all. It was really grimy and dirty. The color of that grime and dirt made for some interesting color in water painting.”

A decade later, Carr was living in Nyack and had space. There, he created large-scale oil paintings such as “El Rico Habana.” The subject matter is a cigar.

“My style evolved at the time, so I was painting more abstractly,” he said.

Sept. 11, 2001, was his next turning point.

“I had my recording studio in New York City at that time,” Carr said. “One of the paintings in the show is called ‘Black Squares’ and was my reaction to 9/11. That’s a really big painting. That’s sort of like my ‘Guernica.’”

Carr relocated to the North Country in 2005. He started a charcoal-on-paper series entitled “Spiritual Light.”

“I’m trying to sell everything I can to give me more space to start working again and finish my piano album I want to come out with this year,” he said.

He wanted to share this aspect of himself.

“The ROTA Gallery gave me a shot. Matt Hall (vice president of the gallery) was just very encouraging. He thought it was a great idea, and he wanted to see some of the work,” Carr said.

The show opens the weekend before Earth Day, and Carr has created an electronic soundtrack of music concrete that will accompany the exhibition.

“It’s called ‘The Four Elements,’” he said.

He enjoys oil as a medium because it’s a multiday experience.

“You don’t finish an oil painting in a day. You add a layer, and you think about it. You add another layer ... where the painting begins and where it ends is never the same place. That’s what I love about oil. It’s really an exploration of a journey to a picture. I, myself, never begin or end in the same place. I never know what it’s really going to be until it’s finished,” Carr said.

One of the reasons he chose musical studies at Julliard and Princeton over art is that he didn’t want anyone to tell him how to paint. 

“I didn’t want the studies to get in the way of my expression,” Carr said. “I was really going for that raw voice of expression. It’s so easy when you study and focus on technique; sometimes that can be a positive, and it can be a negative. It sometimes totally ruins the voice and the joy you get out of discovering a color or a line or a piece of yourself.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "The Hidden Art of Adrian Carr: A Retrospective 1984-2007" WHEN: Saturday. Opening reception, noon to 7 p.m.; live piano concerts by Adrian Carr, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Show runs through Monday, May 6. WHERE: ROTA Gallery and Studios, 50 Margaret St., Plattsburgh. HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.