Lewis deSoto: Recital

A book lies open with images of the human brain on the music rack of a black piano above a row of black and white keys.

Installation view, Lewis deSoto: Recital, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 1998. Photo: Charles Mayer. Archival slide image.

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Lewis deSoto
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The MIT List Visual Arts Center will present Lewis deSoto: Recital, a new exhibition by the San Francisco-based artist that will open on Friday, October 9, 1998.

The exhibition will continue through December 27, and is presented concurrently with the List’s other fall exhibition, Matthias Mansen: About the House. As suggested by the title, the exhibition’s visual form will replicate an intimate concert space, and include a spotlit digital piano placed on a stage, in front of a velvet backdrop, with rows of chairs placed before it, where gallery visitors may sit and listen to the music the piano will play continuously.

The inspiration for the exhibition is a book which deSoto came across by chance while browsing in a library, An Atlas of the Brain of a Pianist by Hideomi Tuge, a Japanese neurosurgeon. The book, published in 1975, concerns Tuge’s wife, pianist and composer Chiyo-Asaka Tuge. Chiyo Tuge died in 1969 of liver cancer, and before her death, Dr. Tuge obtained her permission to dissect her brain. Dr. Tuge was interested in discovering evidence of his wife’s musical talents in her brain’s structure, his thesis being that the density and distribution of neurological matter was different in creative people. Beyond this quasi-scientific purpose, however, the book is also an unconventional, but loving, monument to her memory, containing biographical information and reproductions of staves of music she wrote. DeSoto became fascinated with the Atlas and its implications: the explicit mingling of the subjective and objective, of art and science.

On the piano’s music stand will rest a copy of the Atlas, which gallery visitors may view by standing near the stage, its pages slowly turning with the aid of an automatic page turner. Visitors may also sit in the chairs to listen to the music. The animations of the piano and page turner suggest the absent human presence, while the music and text/images in the Atlas are abstractions and objectifications of an individual’s life. These elements placed together suggest a struggle to keep memories alive, the desire to quantify what is metaphysical and elusive, and the ways in which meaning and personal significance is projected onto the objects that surround us.

About the Artist

Lewis deSoto was born in 1954 in San Bernardino, CA and received a B.A. in studio art and religious studies from the University of California, Riverside, and a MFA from Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA. He presently lives and works in San Francisco where he is professor of art at San Francisco State University. His work frequently explores the issues and sites of spirituality in contemporary life. Recent solo exhibitions include Ship (1998), Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Dervish (1997) at Metronom, Barcelona; Tahquitz (1996) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; The Sound of theTrumpet (1996) at ARTPACE, San Antonio where he was artist-in-residence; Four Interventions (1995) at the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; andCrossing/Crusandose (1994) at the Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM.

The exhibition was co-curated by Helaine Posner, former List Arts Center curator and presently Director of Exhibitions at the International Center of Photography, New York, and Jennifer Riddell, Assistant Curator at the List Arts Center. It will be accompanied by a publication to be issued in November.