Shades (drawing series) by Euan Macdonald, 50”x28,” graphite on paper, 2010, courtesy of the artist and Galleria S.A.L.E.S., Rome, Italy
Shades (drawing series) by Euan Macdonald, 50”x28,” graphite on paper, 2010, courtesy of the artist and Galleria S.A.L.E.S., Rome, Italy

For the ninth exhibition in its PAUSE: Practice and Exchange program series, YBCA presents Los Angeles-based artist Euan Macdonald’s 9,000 Pieces. The show includes five new works investigating globalization, perception, and temporality through a single object, the piano. Macdonald’s 9,000 Pieces will be the former San Francisco resident’s first Bay Area show since exhibitions at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other local galleries in the early to mid-2000s.

Macdonald is best known for video works that play with the power of digital images to subtly undermine widely-held notions of truth using loops and superimposed visuals. He frequently captures everyday, fleeting moments on video and uses that material to challenge viewers’ expectations of seemingly ordinary situations. The artist also maintains an ongoing interest in music, incorporating such elements as sheet music and instruments in his explorations of illusion.

The show’s title video work, 9,000 Pieces, portrays the durability testing of a piano at a secret factory in Shanghai, China, at which instruments are made for sale with labels deceptively indicating high-end European manufacture. During the course of the nine minute video, the piano’s 9,000 parts are tested for a lifetime of use by machines as a clock records the passing of a single minute. By presenting this scenario to the audience, Macdonald reveals cracks in the reality offered to consumers in today’s globalized society.

Other new works include: Shades, a series of five large graphite drawings of pianos owned by renowned artists including Elvis Presley and John Lennon that explore class, historical, and social associations; Kimball, a stop-motion video in which Macdonald uncovers an abandoned antique piano from underneath a pile of discarded books; Out of the Wild, a two-channel video work on the use of two tuning forks; and Play the Piano Drunk… a silkscreen series based on text from poet/writer Charles Bukowski’s 1979 book, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit.

YBCA has also published a 130-page artist book of drawings and experimental, documentary-style photographs of the Shanghai factory’s assembly line and machinery, designed by Willem Henri and with an essay by curator Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery in London.

Public programs around this new work include a lecture on the history of the keyboard by Chris Brown of Mills College, an Alternative Artist Lecture by Macdonald, during which he will discuss his influences beyond the art world, and a live DJ mix of piano and electronic music by Bay Area performance artists Cliff Hengst and Scott Hewicker.


9,000 PIECES

Macdonald’s first Bay Area exhibition in six years features
five commissioned works reflecting on the piano

YBCA, 701 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, 415.978.ARTS (2787)
April 9-June 12, 2011, Upstairs Galleries
Gallery Hours: Thurs – Sat, 12 pm – 8 pm; Sunday, 12 pm – 6 pm
Closed Mon-Wed except the first Tuesday of the month when the hours are 12 pm – 8 pm
$7 regular/$5 students, seniors & teachers/Free for YBCA Members/Free First Tuesday

Monica Turner
Contributor to Stark Insider for tech, the arts and All Things West Coast for over 10 years.