Monterey Peninsula College Art Department Gallery has been a hub for contemporary California artists to put up work that is in, and of, the moment. For the newest show in the boxy space, gallery director Melissa Pickford has reached to Southern California and found Margaret Noble, whose medium is sound.
Noble was born in Texas but grew up in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego in the 1980s, dependent on welfare, captivated by hip-hop and dance music, among racially diverse neighbors. She became a DJ in Chicago’s underground clubs, which was an awesome experience for her. But she felt limited by two turntables, so she expanded the sonic palette by earning an MFA in sound art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“I love that sound and music physically makes people move their bodies,” she writes by email. “I love that sound and music can change any place or environment into something exciting, fun and uplifting. It is… not an exclusive or inaccessible art form.”
She admires artists who “make something from nothing” like early hip-hop artists, Detroit techno and Chicago house music makers; John Cage, Brian Eno, Fennesz, Laurie Anderson; collage, bricolage and found object makers. Her own practice combines sound, sculpture, installation and performance. She’s had solo shows as far away as Berlin and Portugal, so MPC is relatively close for her. She’s bringing several of her interactive sculptures – made from recycled objects, circuitry, and recordings – for a sound installation titled Resonating Objects.
“I Have Arrived, 2015” comprises lawn sprinklers sitting on grass-covered pedestals, playing their percussive, shimmering, water-spraying sounds. It ponders lawns as status symbols of expendable resources. “Scaled Discords, 2015” are bunches of spinning tops that play out a theatrical metaphor around “power structures, resource allocation and racial inequality in America.” The one called “A Shit Pile of Lights and Sounds for Your Pleasure” is like a mash-up of Lite Brite, a Ouija board, and an early Akai sampler.
Noble advises that visits during the quieter durations of the show (Nov. 14-Dec. 12) will pay off. Touching is encouraged, but as whimsical as they look, these are still artworks and not toys.
“The experiences are fragile and conceptual,” she says. “There are stories and ideas embedded in the works.” And we all have the keys to unlock them.
RESONATING OBJECTS opens 12:30-2pm Tuesday, Nov. 13 (1pm artist’s talk), at Monterey Peninsula College Art Gallery, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. Free; $3/parking. 646-3060.