There’s an excellent range of modern art on display in Plymouth at the moment. In the City Museum and Art Galleries an exhibition with the witty title Artists Make Faces gathers together a diverse hoard of heads; phizogs painted, inked, scrawled, sculpted or assembled from gaudy gewgaws. They have been chosen by the estimable Monika Kinley, and is a variation on a similar exhibition which she put together in 1983 with her late partner, the poet and curator Victor Musgrave, and showed in their London home. The title is particularly well-worded given the tendency towards facial distortion. The visages here are pulled into gnarled grimaces and goofy grins, blurred with sleep or caught in moments of shock, aggression or slack blankness. Partly, this reflects the modernist deviation from direct representation into more expressionist, surreal or abstracted views of the subject. But when that subject is the human face, it’s almost impossible to separate the form from the emotional affect of the picture. Once recognised, the features of a face can’t be reduced to a cool analysis of line, colour and textural qualities. They invite a more direct and immediate response, with an appreciation of their artistry possible once familiarity has been established. As with people in the flesh, it’s through the face that first impressions are most firmly imprinted.
One of the most significant aspects of the exhibition is the inclusion of work by so-called outsider artists, which introduces an intriguing dimension to notions of direct, ‘artless’ expression. Kinley and Musgrave were both champions of outsider artists; Musgrave organised a major exhibition in London in 1979, which helped to define the idea of such art as a genre in itself, and they both amassed an impressive collection, which Kinley continued to expand after Musgrave’s death in 1984. It now resides in the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Maybe she feels a certain kinship with these artists who exist well beyond the boundaries of any establishment, creating purely at the behest of whatever need or spirit drives them. As a Jewish girl and the daughter of progressively minded parents in 1930s Europe, she was herself marked as an undesirable outsider and driven across the continent by the expansion of Nazi power and ideology until finally ending up in England as a young teenager in 1939. Although a life-long lover of the visual arts, she had little formal training; the nature of the world in which she grew up made that an almost impossible proposition. In the post-war period, she found herself a job in the Tate Gallery shop in order that she might be close to the world which was so dear to her heart and enjoy the intense discussions about the latest movements and artists which were a part of that milieu. Evidently a very personable and passionate character, she got to know some of the newly emerging artists in London at this time, and started to use her home as a private gallery in which to show their work and foster interest in it. She found a fellow spirit in Victor Musgrave, and together they did a great deal to promote new British art (as well as much more from beyond these shores) in the in the 60s and 70s. Musgrave had opened a gallery called Gallery One in the 50s in Soho which moved to Mayfair in the 60s, and it was here that Bridget Riley had her first exhibition in 1962. The event was captured in a photographic portrait by Musgrave’s previous partner Ida Kar, the subject of a previous exhibition in the Plymouth Museum and Art Galleries.
Of course, once the term Outsider Art became a familiar part of the art historical lexicon, the work it referred to could no longer be considered to be wholly outside. Its very acceptance brought the basis of its difference into question. Other terms applied to it tried to steer around such tricky questions whilst still setting it apart from the idea of an authentic art. The USA, as a country keen to establish its own artistic identity, and with a philosophical bias towards favouring singular individualism over collective endeavour, has been much more open to the idea of the self-taught oddball. This is apparent in its rich history of musical mavericks and inventors, from Charles Ives and Harry Partch to Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage and all the folk, blues and street musicians who fashioned instruments from whatever came to hand. Outsider art here was often included within the traditional rubric of ‘folk art’, which brought it within the wider pattern of American history and culture. In France, under the patronage of Jean Dubuffet, it was known as Art Brut, or raw art. This was a term intended to sum up its rough authenticity. But its implications of creativity unmediated by conscious design risked patronisation, or even the exploitation of the vulnerable for the sake of manufacturing a subversive theoretical opposition to established values. There’s always been a dangerous and misguided tendency to ascribe some special visionary quality to the perceptions of social misfits or the mentally ill, as if they have somehow penetrated through to a more fundamental layer of reality inaccessible to the balanced, rational mind. Their artistic productions are more likely to be attempts to express or come to a greater understanding of their unanchored and drifting selves. As such, their work often seems congruent with that of modern artists who have tried to respond to the turbulent course and rapid, violent changes of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the crises of the human psyche which have resulted.
The Artists Make Faces exhibition places both Outsider and insider artists in unremarked-upon proximity to each other, making no distinction between them. It’s difficult to tell them apart until you look at the accompanying literature. Some of the better known names declare themselves to be the ‘genuine’ article, simply through the virtue of recognition. But distinctions soon grow nebulous and vague. Are self-taught people like LS Lowry and Cornish born David Whittaker outside or inside? The latter achieved widespread recognition when he won the National Art Competition in 2011, an award which specifically aims to bypass the insider world of galleries and dealers. They have operated outside of the mainstream, and still struggle to gain wholehearted critical approval, whilst enjoying broader public appreciation. Also, the lifestyle and behaviour of the likes of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon shows that the most universally lauded of art world insiders can share similar personal qualities to those which are supposed to drive the compulsive creativity of Outsider Artists. The modern myth of the artist existing beyond the strictures of social convention as a condition of their creativity is a strong one, perhaps originating with Rossetti and the Aesthetic movement and the flamboyant Augustus John. It’s an image which many of the current generation of British artists play with in a very conscious and carefully controlled way, creating their own cults of celebrity controversy. This is exemplified here by Marc Quinn’s drawing of his 2006 sculpture Self, which was chiefly notable for the material it was made from – several pints of his own frozen blood. There’s a definitely a strong ‘look everybody, I’m mad, me’ attention grabbing element to it.
There is a wide geographical spread to the Outsider Artists on display. We have the Austrian Rudolf Horacek’s concentrated coloured pencil scribbles, made from the confines of a mental hospital; Englishman Albert Louden’s flattened faces with reductively mask-like features flushed with bright colour; the intricate ink doodle-hatching and weave (the kind of obsessive detailing characteristic of a number of Outsider Artists) of the American TH Gordon’s remarkable 48 Heads In A Frame, an almost anthropological study of comically grotesque expressions; similarly detailed features drawn by Richard Nie from Britain; the Serbian Sava Sekulic’s symbolic image of the devouring father Napoleon and his Daughters, the latter forming his hair and beard and stiffly arrayed in a queue like strips of beef jerky waiting to be chewed and swallowed by his loosely chomping teeth (this is the image used for the exhibition poster); Jimmy Lee Sudduth from Alabama, known for creating his own pigments out of mud and other elemental materials; the Glaswegian Scottie Wilson, another who weaves together an intricate mesh of patterned lines which are then coloured in with pen; and the German-born Agatha Wojciechowsky, whose paintings and drawings often derive from her activities as a spiritualist and medium in the USA, thus pointing the way towards the occult and New Age realms of automatic and channelled creation. This is an area of Outsider Art less likely to attract the attention of art historians and theoreticians since it comes with its own explanatory framework and is therefore more resistant to meanings being imposed from without (or within).
These artists are placed side by side with works by Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Richard Hamilton, Roland Penrose, Eduardo Paolozzi, Marc Quinn, Howard Hodgkin, Gibert and George, Allen Jones and others. Hamilton’s Hugh Gaitskell As A Famous Monster Of Filmland (1963) is an amusing transformation of a sober statesman, a leader of the Labour party during the MacMillan years of the 50s, into a pop culture cover star. I don’t know whether there’s any angle of political satire intended here – Gaitskell as a well-meaning but blunderingly destructive Karloff monster. Apparently his rhetorical style was rather dry and clinical. Maybe Hamilton was just struck with a certain likeness, and felt compelled to place the blocklike head in this context. Eileen Agar’s Portrait of Dylan Thomas (1960) drips a white outline profile over a patchwork of colours (a synaesthetic representation of poetic language, maybe), the line flattened into an expressive smear. A startled swirl of an eye is added as a final flourish, giving the poet his wide-eyed vision. Nigel Henderson’s collaged Head of a Man (1956-61) was included in Patrick Keiller’s 2012 Tate Britain exhibition The Robinson Institute, and looks like a face embedded in the grain and cracked contours of a block of granite. Jean Dubuffet’s Smile II (1962) is a grinning gumby whose ragged outline suggests that the artists fully absorbed the raw spirit of the Outsider Artists he admired so much.
Some of the faces here make amusingly incongruous or strangely appropriate neighbours. Hew Locke’s Jungle Queen II (2003) dominates one wall of the gallery with a huge, brightly yellow head of Queen Elizabeth II cobbled together from cheap plastic souvenirs and throwaway toys and decorations. To its left, Ana Maria Pacheco’s untitled sculpture of a head with a spiky shock of hair looks out, mouth open in a frozen scream of horror. It could be the petrified Medusa’s head; it could be the head of a falling body, hair streaming out in the accelerating slipstream; or it could be the decapitated head of a queen from centuries past, caught in the disbelieving moment when it takes its tumble from the executioner’s block to the awaiting basket.
In a smaller adjacent room, an antechamber of the larger gallery which can also be reached by passing through the Victorian murk of the cloisterd library and print room, an exhibition appropriately called Hidden in Plain Sight is on display. This brings together a number of abstract paintings and sculptures from the museum’s collection. Most were produced in the 60s and 70s and acquired by the forward thinking director of the museum at the time, Alex Cumming. There are a number of works here by familiar artists associated with St Ives: Bryan Wynter’s Pas (1970), Patrick Heron’s Rectilinear Reds and Blues (1963), John Wells’ Variations (1961-3) and Barbara Hepworth’s Three Forms Bronze (1970). But others demonstrate what a strong centre for abstract art Plymouth was at this time.
Gentian - Derek HollandDerek Holland and Alexander Mackenzie, whose paintings Gentian (1968) and Manganese White (1967) are on display, were both heads of art at Plymouth College of Art in the 60s. Holland’s Gentian mixes abstraction with pop art patterning, the zig zag stripes which form a bracketing ground to the painting, reminiscent of the psychedelic insignia on a Sergeant Pepper band jacket. They bring a touch of warm colour to the steely skies filling the rest of the canvas. Mackenzie’s Manganese White, meanwhile, restricts its painterly activity to a band stretching across the middle of the canvas. What look like two separate, mismatched photographic strips converge to create a single focussed image in the centre. This central area has the look of a geological surveyors aerial mapping of an arctic expanse of icy blue and white, circled and triangulated with the marks of cartographical orienteering. The thick black verticals threaded loosely together with wiry lines have the appearance of a provisional fence battered by the elements, marking out the boundaries of the known. Beyond, all is a white void, the purest kind of abstraction.
Manganese White - Alexander MackenzieThis raises one of the perennial issues with which abstract art has to contend: the tendency of the human mind to create patterns from and bring associative notions to arrangements of shape and colour which have no concrete subject and are intended to be appreciated for their formal qualities alone. No matter how hard-edged the abstraction, how fervent its insistence on its complete repudiation of representation, the human imagination will always latch onto something and think ‘hmm, that rectangle reminds me of a table’, or ‘that circle is obviously represents a flower’. Lar Cann’s White-Brown Advancing-White (1967) is probably meant to be seen as a completely abstract composition. But its white island block, into which a series of linear strips have been excavated to admit the brown of the moat which surrounds it, brings to my mind the outline of docks and wharves. This is undoubtedly associative on my part, given the city in which it’s displayed and in which the artist was born. Relief sigils impressed upon the paper add textural detail and are suggestive of map details or maybe even guild signs. The passion still adhering to debates on the relative merits of abstraction and figuration or representation are indicated by the fact that this is the only one of Cann’s paintings from this period which he didn’t destroy.
White-Brown Advancing-White - Lar CannOther works here still trail shadows of representative subject matter. Margaret Lovell’s 1970 sculpture Barquentine III admits as much in its titling. Its twin bronze seed wings stand on a contrasting base of dark slate and, like her Sail which was displayed in the Women in Art exhibition in another gallery of the Museum, draws from the shapes of sails given curvaceous form by prevailing offshore winds. Michael Snow’s Tower III (1967) is a spindly bronze structure planted on a steel base, which has the look of an architectural model, prompting speculation as to its provenance. Is it a watchtower on some borderland of the imagination, the skeleton of an age old Babel structure long since blasted by divine lightning, or the framework for a new utopian block rising up towards the sky? It’s certainly difficult for the active imagination not to weave some kind of story around it.
Other artists use unusual materials to bring an extra textural effect to their work. Peter Tysoe uses slab glass, epoxy resin and welded steel to give the hunched amber wings of his Standing Form (1967) the look of a crystallised insect subject to the dense gravity of another world. Exeter-born Justin Knowles’ Three Reds with White (1967) paints its segments of ill-fitting red onto rough canvas, lending it something of the quality of 70s wallpaper. It’s fitted into an unconventional frame, a triangular form with curved sides, rather like a giant guitar plectrum. This shape gives the whole a feeling of tension, with the contrasting shades of the darker reds against the light background giving the impression of dimensionality caused by some external pressure. Beryl Clark’s Frame Tent (1968) has actual dimensionality, expanding out of the frame into a built-up geometrical relief. Silver metallic facets reflect light onto darker surfaces and contrast with shadows cast by other projecting spurs. Marie Yates’ Vertigo (1965) has the dizzying effect of a piece of op-art, with its receding set of nested black, white and grey hexagons set at lop-sided angles to each other. The whole looks as if it were about to set into spinning motion, like a movie title sequence designed by Saul Bass (who did indeed create the titles for Hitchcock’s Vertigo).
Two works bring us abstract painting from more recent decades and also make play with the physical qualities of the materials used. Ian Davenport’s untitled work from 1989 uses Pollock-like drips of liquid paint but allows gravity to create the motion of action art, creating chance effects by standing the canvas on its end. Julian Lethbridge also leaves his 1991-2 work untitled, both seemingly unwilling to give the viewer any distracting cues. He mixes oil and graphite on linen to create a brittle black surface which is then fractured into a webbed craquelure which radiates out from a central point of impact.
Keith Rowe's cover art for the CD re-release of AMMMusic 1966There are two labels on the walls for a work by Keith Rowe which don’t appear to refer to anything visible in the general proximity. A low-level progression of creaks, metallic scrapes and electronic murmurs has been subliminally apprehensible throughout, however, and it gradually becomes apparent that this is what the labels refer to. I had at first thought it was the soundtrack to the footage of Patrick Heron painting in his studio being shown on a screen in the corner. An sudden strident electronic squelch seemed to correspond with the sweep of Heron’s brush across a blank expanse of canvas at one point. Rowe is a visual artist as well as a musician, and produced a number of distinctive album sleeves for AMM, the group he has been part of at various times. But the work referred to here is a performance recorded in New York on September 11th 2011 at the Amplify Festival. Rowe is best known for his unconventional guitar playing and electronic soundscaping in AMM, a free improvisation group which came into being in the 1960s. They emerged from regular rehearsals a the Royal College of Art in London, and thus have something of a fine art pedigree. Their music lies somewhere between the guided chance operations of modern classical composition in the John Cage mould and the hard-boiled, non-idiomatic improvisation emerging on the avant-garde fringes of the British jazz scene. Their first LP, AMMMusic 1966 was released on Elektra Records in 1967. In the same year, the label released The Doors’ debut album, Tim Buckley’s Goodbye and Hello, The Waterson’s Frost and Fire, The Incredible String Band’s The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, Love’s Forever Changes and Mort Garson’s Zodiac Cosmic Sounds. AMMMusic might seem to come from another world to these artists. But they are at one extreme of a strong experimental tendency which ran through the music of the time, and which brought the ideas of the avant garde into the more exploratory areas of pop music. The pure and lofty academy intermingled with the beer-stained cellar of the rock club for a brief period. AMM were a peripheral presence on the London underground scene, attracting the attention of the ever-inquisitive Paul McCartney, inspiring some of Syd Barrett’s wilder journeys into improvisatory space during Interstellar Overdrive and sharing a certain affinity with the likes of Soft Machine. The relevance of Rowe’s inclusion here (the labels making it clear that his sounds are an integral part of the exhibition rather than providing Satie-esque musical furniture) lies in the fact that his music shares the same drive towards abstraction as the visual art. He was also born in Plymouth, which creates a further connection.
Rowe lays his guitar on a table, behind which he sits with studious concentration, and he often appears to be dissecting it rather playing. Various small devices are used to make contact with the recumbent instrument. He strives to avoid conventional guitaristic sounds, coaxing and tweaking sonorities and noises from the strings, neck and body. It’s as if he were approaching it as an amplified sculpture rather than an instrument tuned to predetermined pitches and designed to be played in a particular style developed over several centuries. He often incorporates the sounds of a randomly and occasionally roughly tuned radio into his performances. In this case, a half-heard passage of mournful romantic orchestral music leaks through the static fog enveloping the weak signal. These days there are more digital elements which make the production of electronic soundscapes less of a physical process. Rowe is no longer a part of AMM, partly because of his desire to explore the new possibilities of electronic music more thoroughly. The group have always been riven by conflicts associated with the inward-looking ideological head-bashing of the post-60s factions of the revolutionary left. Rowe, along with bandmate Cornelius Cardew, was a Maoist ideologue for a time, which caused a lengthy schism. AMM have persisted in one form or another through five decades now, though. The very fact that the acronymic foundation of those letters have never been revealed suggests an emblematic commitment to abstraction which continues to this day. Keith Rowe will be playing at the Plymouth College of Art this Thursday (the 21st November), a return to the place where he studied art in the early 60s (although it's now changed beyond recognition). So you can see just how he wrangles sounds from that potent structure of wood, metal and strings, and what other devices will be cluttering up his experimental table.
The elder EP Thompson in full flowOver the busy ringroad, around the roundabout island with its bombed out and stranded church and under the bleached bus station you come to the old town and Plymouth Arts Centre. Here, Luke Fowler’s film “The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott” is currently showing on a loop in the curtained-off gallery space on the lower floor. It starts more or less on the hour, and lasts for about an hour. It is based around the journals and class reports of the young EP Thompson from the post-war years when he was teaching WEA evening courses in various towns in Yorkshire. The film offers a view of a time when idealistic people of Thompson’s stripe were trying to provide a non-autocratic form of education for the working classes (or anyone else who wanted to attend) who might ordinarily feel excluded from institutions of higher learning. The students were encouraged to shape the courses according to their own needs and interests, and Thompson observations make it clear that the tutors in this context were likely to learn as much as anyone in the classroom. Some of what Thompson experienced during his years teaching in Yorkshire led him towards the writing of his magnum opus, The Making of the English Working Class, a landmark history which was first published in 1963. It was his historical reclamation of the lives of ordinary working people in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
It’s from a passage in the introduction to the book that the title of Fowler’s film is extracted and condensed. Thompson’s sentence in full reads “I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the ‘obsolete’ hand-loom weaver, the ‘utopian’ artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity’. It could be said that Fowler is trying to rescue Thompson and his fellow WEA proselytisers for the transformative power of open, accessible and democratic education (amongst them Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams) from a similar retrospective condescension. His choice of a Welsh reader to taken on the role of the young Thompson is surely significant (as is the fact that he is audibly of more mature years, giving the whole thing an air of retrospection). His rich, lyrical voice replaces the slightly patrician tones of Thompson familiar from footage (some included here) of talks and interviews recorded later in life, once his reputation (and wild white-haired persona) was established. A connection is made with the proud traditions of self-education which prevailed in the Welsh valleys, which gives the film a greater universality. The reader also sometimes comments on what he is voicing, asides which Fowler has decided to retain. This creates a further sense of distancing and reflection. This is a Thompson coming to us at some remove, almost as if he were a character in the early part of his own biopic. Mysterious pieces of archive footage are interpolated at various junctures; firemen putting out a fire in the streets and a group of people walking down a newly constructed and as yet unopened motorway underpass. These hint at untold stories, and invite us to fill in the narrative blanks.
There’s a geographical particularity to Fowler’s images, however. They focus on the telling detail and the broader land and cityscapes. There’s a carefully framed pictorial quality to his shots, which are often lingeringly static. This stillness and reflective pacing draws the viewer in to the environments Fowler explores. Its visual tone invites comparison with the similarly contemplative style of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson films. There are occasional bursts of rapid editing and more fluid camerawork. These serve as interludes, chapter endings, or perhaps just as a means to snap the viewer out of a trancelike fugue. Interiors and exteriors are contrasted, with many shots looking out of windows at the vistas they frame. We get a feel for the spaces in which the evening classes took place, many of them now silent and empty. They are often to be found in Victorian buildings, and the legacy of industrial expansion and of the less visible socially progressive and philanthropic ideals of the later nineteenth century which shore up the WEA endeavour are made plain. Fowler contrasts the architecture of the industrial age with the concrete structures of the post-war era, which bear their own mass of ideological intent. An image of soaring and ruthlessly functional concrete roadways snaking over an old Victorian wrought iron bridge, rich in colour and decorative design, is particularly striking. There is a sense of a visibly layered history, of eras which looked to the future and were intent on shaping a new world, both in the built environment and in the less tangible constructions of the mind. Later accretions of steel and glass monuments and overarching malls provide the imposing architectural markers of a present in which all futures have already been bought up. The film is imbued with a certain nostalgia for the sense of manifold possibilities which the post-war period seemed to offer. It ends with dark clouds gathering above wintry hills. Richard Youngs (whose songs are heard at intervals throughout the film) sings an old ballad over Fowler’s slowly plummeting electronic sine waves. We’ve already heard Thompson talking about William Blake’s apocalyptic visions, and he comes to the rallying conclusion that the Beast is now more in the ascendant than ever. Through the chronicling of the small, everyday triumphs and disappointments of the travelling teacher, we gain the sense that this was a period suffused with the modest radiance of a golden age, one lit by lamps on a common, local and therefore human scale. An age before the darkness began to descend, particularly densely in the industrial north in which Thompson was teaching and which Fowler has documented on film.
Luke Fowler in the editing roomI went to see Fowler talk about this film and his work as an artist in general when he travelled down to Plymouth from Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. Patrick Keiller, Lindsay Anderson and Free Cinema were mentioned, and he expressed his admiration of Anderson’s If… ( a favourite of mine) and of its star Malcolm McDowell, whose youthful looks he shares to some degree. If… was the film he chose to be shown as a supplement to the exhibition. It takes a similarly iconoclastic stance towards traditional educational values, and its possible to see a little of Thompson in Graham Crowden’s eccentric professor, who rides into the classroom on his bike and tries to get the boys interested in the savage ironies of twentieth century history. Fowler also talked about his collaboration with Toshiya Tsunoda on the installation piece Flutter Screen which was shown in Plymouth as part of the British Art Show 7 in 2011. It initially sprung from a meeting at the Arika festival in Glasgow, and was partly an attempt to counter the static quality of the cinematic experience, the passive spectatorship inherent in the gazing up at a large image on a flat, unmoving screen. In Flutter Screen, a loose, silk screen is blown by a strategically placed fan. Projected images of wings, clouds and liquid surfaces are moved by the rippling of the screen rather than the unspooling of film or reading of digital bytes. When addressing the variety of his artistic modes (film, poetic documentary, visual art and music) he refused to be limited by definition or to accept a neat compartmentalisation dividing these different aspects of his work. Everything is sound art, he suggested, possibly implying that other connections could by adduced to bring seemingly disparate strands of work together. Questions were asked about whether galleries were the right place to show fairly lengthy artists’ films, and whether he minded if people wandered in and only stayed for a fraction of the full running time. He admitted that such work might not be for everyone, but that was alright. Even if only a small number of people got something from it, they were able to return and gain a deeper insight into what the film meant. He also said that in making his films (and he was referring to the Thompson film and All Divided Selves, his portrait of the anti-psychiatrist and 60s guru figure RD Laing) he was in effect educating himself. The Poor Stockinger…. Was therefore in effect a meditation on voluntary and participatory education in which the director himself partook.
Richard Youngs and Luke Fowler at the Bread and RosesAfter the talk, people repaired to the Bread and Roses pub on the other side of the roundabout where Fowler played a short set with Richard Youngs, who had also come down from Glasgow. It was a prelude to their performance in a trio with Neil Campbell at the Colour Out of Space Festival in Brighton on the ensuing weekend. They were hived off into a hastily assembled corner snug at the end of the long, narrow space of the Bread and Roses front room. Youngs played a cheap old Casio keyboard, on which he stabbed chords, held down reedy drones and bent notes with reckless abandon on the pitch wheel. Fowler bent studiously over a sleek slab of digital gimcrackery from which he stroked looping beats and circling melodic patterns. Repetition was the theme of the evening. Youngs sang phrases over and again as if they might reveal a different meaning each time. The repetitions of the music seemed to ground the wide spectrum reveries found on many of his recordings, refining them into a point of narrow, pin-bright focus. There was a slight feeling of a work in progress, but even if this were so, it was enjoyable witnessing its unfolding.