Photos by Iya Forbes
Crwn is pumping out another one of his lo-fi R&B signatures, dressed in a bucket hat and a dark denim jacket. Five feet away from him in the audience, a woman in a floor-sweeping skirt and a cardigan leans forward in her ottoman to get a closer look. She regards the beatmaker pensively, absently stroking her chin, sizing him up like an unfamiliar art object. How interesting, you see her thinking. Musical instruments simulated electronically! Who would’ve thought?
The Ayala Museum was the site of this amusing cultural collision last Friday. If you happened into the building not knowing what was going on, it might’ve taken you a minute to figure things out. Streetwear-clad youth waddled around the lobby bobbing their heads to the music. Meanwhile, bougie art collector-types chatted amongst themselves in hushed tones. If either group looked out of place, it was probably the whole point of the event.
As part of the Ayala Museum’s Creative Nights series, Crwn was invited to collaborate with visual artist Gus Albor in a dynamic meeting-of-minds moment. Because you are likely under 30 and have a Soundcloud account, Crwn probably needs no introduction. The latter artist, though, might be a bit less familiar. An internationally-celebrated painter, Albor is a minimalist, merging muted colors with industrial materials to create works that vacillate between the nebulous and the rigid. The exhibit at the Ayala Museum, titled Territory: Gus Albor, Works from 1969 – 2018, celebrated 50 years of his art, and featured pieces from several private collections.
Gus is 70 years old, but still looks incredibly sharp, his youthful features framed by a shock of gray, wavy hair. Guiding early birds through his exhibit, he refrained from commenting on many of his works, speaking mainly to those who asked him questions. While the lobby was filled with the textured, mostly-monochromatic paintings that have come to define his artistry, the third floor of the museum showcased some of his nude sketches, striking in their bold, precise lines. After the tour was over, he sauntered back down to the lobby to catch Crwn’s performance.
A makeshift stage was set up with Albor’s exhibit as backdrop. Adjacent to the door was an art station filled with blank canvases and paint materials, open to guests who wanted to paint to the music. crwn took his spot behind his gear, kicking off the night without saying a word. Running for around 20 minutes, his set stuck exclusively to instrumental beats, leaving collabs with Jess Connelly and Curtismith back home.
Later, Albor himself took to the stage with his flute. Backed by percussion and a guitar, he delivered an earthy set of atmospheric world music. After inviting Crwn back onstage to jam with his backing band, Albor propped up a blank canvas in front of the audience and began to improvise a painting.
As whooshing synths reverberated against the metallic canvasses on display, things started to make a lot more sense. Both Crwn and Albor deal in the language of impressions, where mental imprints are expressed in sounds or images. Both men are, in a sense, abstract artists, a linkage that was eventually solidified when they joined forces for one final set. With Albor’s flute and Crwn’s chilled electronic music resounding in unison, tiresome boundaries between the popular and the highbrow seemed to erode and crumble. The differences between the two crowds at the Ayala Museum no longer seemed so significant.