A Review of "Itica Pritica"

(Dave Matthews loses his mind and his face)

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First he shocked the nation by breaking out of the Charlottesville, Virginia club circuit in the early half of the ‘90s with a fusion of jazz, country, funk and rock, touched by an eclectic instrumentation. Now it is nice to see superstar singer-songwriter, Dave Matthews throw down the aesthetic gauntlet and marry the intersection of music and plastic art.

Itica Pritica is a nightmarish collaboration between Matthews and Beezy Bailey. It showed at the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea from March 5 until April 13. The exhibit consisted of 28 psychotic original silkscreens, a sculpture installment and a collaborative film: with his cellphone, Matthews shot his buddy Beezy Bailey donning a bizarre costume, dancing and stalking the Bowery in Manhattan:

“…while scouting for source imagery to be used in the silkscreened works. Settling on a graffiti backdrop…Bailey, who is known for alter egos, began dancing around dressed in the ‘fatman’ costume (a stylized fat suit)…” the result is really weird. It is set to a “recently produced…melancholy yet humorous musical composition”, courtesy of Matthews.

While Beezy Bailey claims to not be a racist, he protests the tribalizing or tribalization of post-apartheid art in South Africa. Art critic Jonathan Glancey writes, “South African society is gloriously, if explosively, complex and that the post-apartheid government is wrong to promote black and tribal art over and above what it calls ‘Eurocentric’ culture.” he writes, adding that: “black tribespeople aren't sitting around all day wearing leopard skins and sleeping in huts: black businessmen and politicians may well turn up and take part in tribal initiation ceremonies in far-off villages, but they'll drive home in a brand new BMW with a Filofax full of downtown appointments in the glove box.” Glancey writes. “This is a land of cellphones, satellite dishes and the Internet, shared by privileged blacks and whites alike. Bailey's point is that there are no clear-cut boundaries any more, or at least there needn't be if only a government that should know better would stop trying to erect them.”

It is strange that Dave Matthews associates with such a taboo ideology or ideologue, as it were.

In a statement previously published elsewhere the South African artist and Dave Matthews collaborator Beezy Bailey said, "We still focus on black artists because there have been sins of omission; we have huge historical gaps which we're only just beginning to fill."

“Bailey and Matthews… first worked together in 1999 creating six paintings that were exhibited at Africa’s first World of Music, Arts and Dance festival in Johannesburg.” according to the project’s official press release.

“In 2012 they collaborated on the present body of work, a homage to Warhol and Rauschenberg in enamel, oil and silkscreen on canvas…” the press release read.

But this latest project is especially strange: a dark impression of urban skylines, the Statue of Liberty and Elizabethan self-portraits by Matthews (his face is a motif throughout) that beg to recall the music video direction of Dean Karr who produced the video for “Crash into Me” (1997) and many others.

Beezy Bailey, who has as also collaborated with David Bowie, is prone to public appearances by his alter-ego Joyce Ntobe who (as previously discussed) was “frustrated” by “increasingly prevalent affirmative action” in post-apartheid South Africa – a lesser known angle, indeed; and one not commonly heard in public fora.

The art of Matthews has usually been steeped in visual sensibility, from a formidably good canon of music videos for the MTV and VH1 archives, to noteworthy psychedelic lightshows and stage sets at large performances in stadiums and amphitheaters by the Dave Matthews Band.

"I've always drawn and painted, but as my own thing," Matthews told CNN. " [but] I've never done anything as ambitious as this. Of the points in my life that I'll look back on as monumental to me, this will definitely be one," he said.

To The Wall Street Journal Matthews also said, “I was terrified of doing this whole thing with Beezy…” It was not clear whether he was over-exaggerating. In an August 30, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Matthews said in an interview, “If I'm about to die, I hope I have a needle sticking out of my arm and, like, two powdered doughnuts up my nose and half a bottle of whiskey...” he said, still, it was not clear his intention was to be comical.

Meanwhile, the Dave Matthews Band is set to tour throughout the United States this summer.

The Robert Miller Gallery is 524 West 26th Street in Manhattan, New York.

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Scott Krane