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  • Coté and Mains: Loops and Topiaries

    Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:01 pm | Updated: 5:24 pm, Sun Feb 8, 2015. Ithaca Times

    The composer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Coté is best known for his jagged guitar, first with Madder Rose — an early ‘90s rock act based in New York City — and more recently in collaborations with local musicians, where he has provided transfixing textures and squalls of noise. But those who haven’t spent much time in clubs probably haven’t heard Coté, which is a minor tragedy. Friday, Feb. 6, another audience will have a chance to be exposed to his work, in a collaboration with the visual artist Craig Mains that the Community School of Music and Art will mount for First Friday’s Gallery Night. The opening runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

    The show, “Time | Manner | Place,” also finds a visual artist venturing beyond the work for which local audiences likely associate. Craig Mains, the director of the Ink Shop, and Coté’s collaborator, is himself most likely familiar to gallery-going audiences as a printmaker, though he has a long history with photography. “I have a degree in photography [from the Cleveland Institute of Art], and as far as exhibits go I show primarily in printmaking [centered on] disasters or mishaps, but I have always tried to keep my camera with me, and I have a backlog of digital images.” 

    Coté and Mains met at Olin Library at Cornell, where they both work. “We came up in a particular type of art scene — he in Cleveland, and me in New York City — where there are a lot of collaborations among disciplines in a non-academic way,” Coté said last week during a wide-ranging conversation about Mains. 

     “The music I have made is generally very dark. But when I look at Craig’s work, it has a sense of humor, and playfulness. That forces me not go to my safe place, and stay away from minor chords, and create music that was curious about its subject but not overly happy.” The result is an evolving ambient piece that loops vocals, synthesizers, and other sounds that will broadcast during the opening. 

    Coté continued, “I think our approach to art is similar. If I hear someone say something interesting it will wind up in my work. That is how I go through my day scavenging or collecting these things.” 

    The images in “Time | Manner | Place” center on lovely juxtapositions, and are titled in ways that are both clever but magnanimous. Three conical topiaries collude with an actual orange cone in “For Everything a Place;” construction objects are tethered together, animals join in the observation. Both Mains’ pet and Preston Buchtel, the curator of the Cleveland show, make cameos. In “Shipwreck,” Preston appears facing away from the viewer, a sweat-shirted explorer examining driftwood that has been washed ashore, while a female figure is perched upon a flat rock sitting on sand, as if a castaway on a desert island. 

    Coté has a history of scoring film soundtracks, but hopes to continue collaborating with other artists this year. “I am 50, and though I still like playing out in bars, I have done that for so long, it is hard to carry around gear,” he joked, adding that he expected to release new Madder Rose material, as well as other work.