November 19, 2015

Kim Gordon: Making the Miami Scene in Sun Sentinel

The memoir "Girl in a Band" provides rare insight into the psyche of noise-rocker Kim Gordon, bassist and co-founder of Sonic Youth and current singer-guitarist in experimental duo Body/Head, opposite guitarist Bill Nace. "Onstage, people have told me, I'm opaque or mysterious or enigmatic or even cold," Gordon writes of her public persona. "But more than any of those things, I'm extremely shy and sensitive, as if I can feel all the emotions swirling around a room. And believe me when I say that once you push past my persona, there aren't any defenses there at all."

Amanda Keeley sensed this restraint — toughness, even — during a Sonic Youth performance in 1998 at New York's Irving Plaza, and it's what she sensed from a Body/Head performance last year in Los Angeles, along with a palpable "vibration, lots of energy." On Friday, Nov. 20, at the de la Cruz Collection in Miami, both memories will linger when Keeley, founder of mobile Miami bookstore Exile Books, sits down with Gordon to coax more truth from noise rock's enigmatic badass.

"I think of Kim as an icon, to be honest," Keeley says. "She's an incredibly powerful and articulate and intelligent woman. Some musicians are very compartmentalized in what they show onstage, but Kim isn't like that. She's a very fluid and true person to herself. She explores radical ideas, and it's kind of intoxicating."

With Body/Head, Gordon will also headline a Saturday, Nov. 21, fundraiser block party by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, which is celebrating one year at its temporary home in the Design District's Moore Building. Proceeds from the 365 Party, a night of cocktails, light bites and an opening DJ set by the Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo Holy Ghost!, will fund ICA's new museum at 61 NE 41st St., which broke ground this week for a 2017 opening date.

Keeley's first face-to-face with Gordon came at the nonprofit New York art bookstore Printed Matter, where she worked in the early 2000s. Gordon and her bandmates had collaborated on a fanzine of gig posters and angry fan mail with artist Gerhard Richter, whose 1983 painting "Kerze (Candle)" appeared on the cover of Sonic Youth's iconic 1988 album, "Daydream Nation."

Describing her Friday chat as a "nice overview of [Gordon's] multifaceted career," Keeley says she plans to steer the conversation toward Gordon's writing, feminism, pre-Sonic Youth bands and side career as a conceptual artist.

Courting Gordon to the 1-year-old ICA Miami was a coup for Alex Gartenfeld, the museum's curator and deputy director. Gartenfeld is lofty in his praise of the singer, the "apotheosis of indie music in the 1990s."

"She represents this really important crossover between visual art and music," Gartenfeld says. "And she's not only a legendary musician, but a tremendous artist."