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The Window Gallery presents the work of contemporary makers of unusual and newly invented musical instruments, including emerging artists as well as recognized pioneers. The emphasis is on originality in concept and design, recognizing the seminal role of the search for new sounds in the expansion of musical horizons. Equally essential to the exhibits are notions of beauty, craft, and humor.

The Window Gallery is curated by Bart Hopkin and David Samas. Located at 55 Taylor Street in San Francisco, the gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, and during performances.

Email the Gallery Manager for information, questions, comments or to propose an installation. View past installations.

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Mon, Oct 9 — Sun, Dec 31, 2017
Terry Berlier: Resounding Desire Lines

Artist Statement

I am an interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, kinetics, interactivity and sound to focus on the environment, ideas of nonplace/place and queer practice. My work emphasizes the essential role played by history, social relations, cultural memories and environmental conditions in the creation of our identities. Using humor, I provide tools for recovering and reanimating our faltering connections with self, nature and society. Networks are not just webs of digital synapses, but they are the underlying conditions of our life in the world. The interweaving of movement and sound is a metaphor for harmonious or dissonant interactions within human communities. The work addresses’ the fragility of our ties to a natural world whose long standing rhythms are being disrupted by industry and human intervention. I use humorous metaphors for human cooperation with machines that require coordinated joint effort to operate properly.

About the Artist

“Terry Berlier makes conceptual art of unusual intelligence, humor and sensitivity to the impact of materials.”—Kenneth Baker, SF Chronicle

Terry Berlier is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily with sculpture and expanded media. Her work is kinetic, interactive and/or sound based and focuses on everyday objects, the environment, ideas of nonplace/place and queer practice. 

Berlier has exhibited in solo and group shows both nationally and internationally including the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco, Catherine Clark Gallery, Southern Exposure, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery at Stanford University, Montalvo Arts Center, Weston Art Gallery, Babel Gallery in Norway, Richard L. Nelson Gallery, Center for Contemporary Art in Sacramento, Kala Art Institute Gallery, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Natural Balance in Girona Spain and FemArt Mostra D’Art De Dones in Barcelona Spain. She has received numerous residencies and grants including the Center for Cultural Innovation Grant, the Zellerbach Foundation Berkeley, Artist in Residence at Montalvo Arts Center, Arts Council Silicon Valley Artist Fellowship, Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research Fellow at Stanford University, Recology San Francisco, Hungarian Multicultural Center in Budapest Hungary, Exploratorium: Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception in San Francisco, California Council for Humanities California Stories Fund and the Millay Colony for Artists. Her work has been reviewed in the BBC News Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle and in the book ‘Seeing Gertrude Stein’ published by University of California Press. Her work is in several collections including the Progressive Corporation in Cleveland Ohio, Kala Art Institute in Berkeley California and Bildwechsel Archive in Berlin Germany.

She received a Masters in Fine Arts in Studio Art from University of California, Davis and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Terry Berlier is an Associate Professor and Director of the Sculpture Lab in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University where she has taught since 2007.


Wed, Nov 1 — Sun, Dec 31, 2017
Zoophoneum: The Sonified Wilderness

Atrium Display- Zoophoneum: The Sonified Wilderness

The Zoophoneum began its conceptual life in 2015 when artist and curator David Samas was co-curating his first exhibition of imaginary instruments with the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments; an exhibition which included illustrator and sound sculptor Monte Thrasher. Samas’s unique focus on biological sources reflects his deep and abiding respect for the natural world and the earthlings who share it. This instrument was conceived to give voices to our sylvan neighbors, whether they be animal, mineral or vegetable; not to force them into some human idea of music, but to discover their own endemic soundscapes. While it might be possible to “realize” many of the concepts in Zoophoneum, to do so would violate Samas’ ethical standards as a vegan; believing firmly, as he does, that all life is precious and that no being should have its autonomy reduced to a prop in some arrogant fancy; and that we are all persons, human and non-human alike.

Here you can see 6 plates from this instrument illustrated by Monte Thrasher:

Bowed Timbre: bowing branches is a known technique but what if we could allow the whole tree to resonate?

Dawn Keyboard: a method for live sampling birdsong with sunlight.

Animalia: a ziggurat of critters making the sounds they make best.

Rabbit Leslie: neutral buoyancy balloons used to spacialize sound output from the Zoophoneum.

Sonicillin: a rare mold which incapacitates its host with ecstatic musical hallucinations.

Parrot Dictionary: a chatty flock of the earths most evolved living samplers which can construct poly-lingual words or pure vocal sounds.

Monte Thrasher grew up among the prop shops, animators, sculptors and set painters of Burbank California. Craft awakens the senses and  and leads to art. A contributor to now-legendary Experimental Musical Instrument magazine, Thrasher has worked in sound sculpture since the early 80s. A  critic/aesthetician as well as instrument builder, He is seeking the breakthrough that will deliver this orphan art form to the mass audience it deserves.
Thrasher studied sound sculpture under Bill and Mary Buchen at SFSU, designed for motion pictures, TV and film (Star Trek the Next Generation, Steve Martin’s LA Story, Starship Troopers). He has received two certificates of merit from the City of Los Angeles for work as a muralist, fell into toy and collectables design and wrote a patent for a marvelous new material that’s as fun and versatile as fluorescent color. His art influences include Bela Bartok, R. Buckminster Fuller, Bob Crumb’s ZAP artists, the Baschet brothers, Brian Eno and the Surrealists.

David Samas is a composer, curator, conceptual artist, instrument inventor, and social sculptor. A queer, native San Franciscan from a mixed immigrant roots, David got his a BFA from the SF Art Institute in conceptual art in 2000 and studied poetics at the New College of California. He performed with the SF Boys Chorus, SF Opera and SF Symphony (receiving a GRAMMY, 1994 for best classical recording). His paintings hang in the Di Rosa collection and showed at the Diego Rivera and Canessa Galleries. He has performed at the Exploritorium, Grace Cathedral, YBCA, Cal Shakes, Bing Hall, the Asian Art Museum, CCRMA, the SF Conservatory of Flowers and the Center for New Music where he also curates the Window Gallery for Invented Instruments with Bart Hopkin. He was Artistic Director of the Turquoise Yantra Grotto from 2011-2016, a house concert series for free improv and ethno-modernism and curator for season 16 of Meridian’s Composers in Performance. He gives back to his communities by teaching inventing workshops through Thingamajigs (Oakland), where he is director of community outreach.

Mon, Jan 1 — Wed, Feb 28, 2018
Banjofrogs and Humanitars: Instruments and Art by Fred Carlson

About the Artist

Innovative California luthier Fred Carlson got his start in rural Vermont, where as a teenager in the early 1970s he worked with artist Ken Riportella, a maker of musical sculptures. In 1975 Fred studied guitar-building with acclaimed lutherie teacher Charles Fox. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s Fred built and repaired stringed instruments professionally in a collective craft and woodworking studio that was run by members of the communal farm where he lived for some 20 years. In 1984, Fred’s violin-building partner, Suzy Norris, inspired him with her use of sympathetic strings to develop the Sympitar, a guitar with internal resonating strings. In 1985 Fred showed a prototype of the Sympitar to guitarist/composer Alex de Grassi, who still performs and records with one of the early Sympitars that his feedback helped evolve. Moving to California in 1989, Fred has continued to expand the aesthetic and functional boundaries of the guitar with instruments like the Harp-Sympitar, the Barikoto and the Banjalarpe, original designs that are acoustically and aesthetically adventurous while maintaining the important functional qualities of fine musical instruments, and honoring the traditions of the craft.

Artist Statement

As a teenager some 45 years ago, I got involved in making musical instruments because I wanted to make myself a banjo.  I was living in commune in rural Vermont, filled with woodworkers and musicians.  A woman there played old-time 5-string banjo, and I desperately wanted to learn how to do that.  We built all our own houses there, and there were some very skilled cabinet makers that I got to rub shoulders with.  It occurred to me that I could probably build a banjo if I had some help.  I was attending a very small, alternative high school program at the time, and I asked the director if he could find someone to help me build a banjo.  That led me to working for several years with a wonderful artist/sculptor, Ken Riportella, who was making Appalachian dulcimers in wild, sculpted shapes.  I did eventually make myself a little wooden banjo that I traveled everywhere with, learning to play old mountain tunes and songs.  I sewed a case for it out of an old raincoat I got from the Catholic Daughters Rummage Sale, an annual event in Montpelier, Vermont, that was run by octagenarian identical twin ladies who wore matching plaid outfits.  That was about as good as a rummage sale gets, and those were happy, innocent days in my life.

I got distracted, then, by guitar making, and by becoming a “professional” luthier, something I studied and practised seriously for many years.  But, my natural tendancy has always been toward creativity; I gravitated towards unusual shapes and gradually my work got more assymetrical, farther away from traditional guitar making.  I always wanted to use color, and to have the wood be more plastic than it is, to be able to get shapes that don’t come easy with a chisel.

In a parallel thread of my life, I was doing a lot of theater performance, and got interested in mask-making, strongly influenced by the work of Peter Schumann, of Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theater.  At some point, I began to get the urge to combine the mask-making with the instrument building; it seemed that a large mask might make a really great resonating shell (back) for a stringed instrument.

Over the years, as I got more involved in making more and more complicated variations on multi-string harp guitar things for clients, I made an occasional foray into the mask-as-a-back idea.  It was fun, and I began to develop a paper-and-glue laminate material that had the right consistency to make a reasonable resonator.

It has been only in the last couple of years that I’ve gotten back into banjo building, and have discovered that this papier-mache material is well suited for making a banjo shell/back.  The original ancestors of our modern banjo came from Africa, and were basically gourds with skin stretched over them.  I tried growing gourds…the climate where I now live in coastal California isn’t right.  But I realized I could make my own gourd substitute using my papier-mache material, and have control over shape, color and so on.

So, I’ve been reinventing the ancient, African gourd banjo using recycled Safeway paper grocery bags and Titebond glue.  One thing that draws me to the banjo is an amazing fact of its existence:  it came to us through so much suffering, a people forced into slavery and servitude for centuries, and somehow the instrument is universally associated with joy.  My most recent work has been in trying to manifest that joy into the sculpture of the instrument.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2016-17.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music was supported by New Music USA in 2014.