For two decades, Chris Larson and Grant Hart have felt a special kinship—as friends, fellow artists, and collaborators. Hart was the drummer and co-songwriter of the legendary punk trio Hüsker Dü, and the artist behind its logo, gig fliers, and early album covers. Primarily a visual artist, Larson plays with the House of Mercy Band, among others, and has involved Hart in several of his visual art projects, from his 2006 video Crush Collision, where Hart played a modified piano aboard a floating house, to last year’s exhibition, Chris Larson: Land Speed Record, the pair’s deepest and most recent collaboration.
Opening at the Walker in late 2016, the exhibition was sparked by a tragedy in Hart’s life. One night in 2011, as Larson recalled at a 2016 artist talk, he received a phone call, “Hey Chris, it’s Grant. My house burned down.” Larson offered up his warehouse studio as a space to store the smoke-blackened objects retrieved from Hart’s childhood home. Laid out for several years, and occasionally rearranged, the assembled car parts, books, bibles, musical instruments, master tapes, political signs, and magazines became known as “the pile”—and eventually the subject of the video work at the center of his Walker exhibition. Timed to the exact run time of Hüsker Dü’s seminal album Land Speed Record—and featuring a sound score of a newly recorded drum track for the 1981 live album—the video offers a slow, aerial pan over the 85-foot-long pile.
Hart’s passing on September 14, 2017, at age 56, meant the death of a good friend, a creative partner, and a mercurial inspiration for Larson. In remembrance, Larson shares a page from his journal, written the night of Hart’s passing, and an artwork by Hart.
Grant Hart 9/14/17
…The floor was never the floor when you walked with Grant, and I feel lucky to have walked through the air with him. Grant was always pushing the norm, twisting and sculpting it into something beautiful, rough, and unpredictable. One day at my studio in St. Paul, Grant came in with a dead bird in his hand that he had found on the steps leading into my studio. Without saying hello, he asked for paper and a can of spray paint. He took the bird, laid it on the piece of paper, spray-painted the bird, then held up the paper showing me a beautiful silhouette of a bird flying away. I will deeply miss his revolving creative energy.
Godspeed, Grant Hart…