‘Barry Reynolds and Friends’ help raise great music and art from a Lower East Side gallery basement

Barry Reynolds and Friends on the Lower East Side
Band of Insiders: Elizabeth Kresch, Beo Morales, Ki Smith, Barry Reynolds
Photo by Bob Krasner

While Sugar Pie DeSanto long ago made the musical declaration, “Down in the basement, that’s where it’s at,” and later the Ramones sang , “I don’t wanna go down to the basement”, we can happily report that the former is the case when it comes to the Ki Smith Gallery’s new event series entitled “Barry Reynolds and Friends,” which looks like it will be a regular occurrence at 170 Forsyth St. on the Lower East Side.

Reynolds is the British guitar player, songwriter, composer and producer who is notable for his long standing collaboration with Marianne Faithfull, but his long list of credits includes contributions to discs by Joe Cocker, Grace Jones and Black Uhuru, among others.

Now living in NYC, Reynolds has established a residency at Ki Smith that is a bit of a throwback as it looks forward. 

Taking place on the lower level of the recently opened art space, the second night of the planned monthly series involved Reynolds on acoustic guitar and Beo Morales on MIDI guitar, a device that allowed him to synthesize pretty much any sound he desired.

Playing improvised music on either side of a small, somewhat haphazard stage, the two musicians flanked painter Elizabeth Kresch, who began by quickly sketching both musicians — thinking at first that she might complete two canvases but ended up only having time for one: a very impressive impression of Morales which she completed in about an hour. 

The event had the feel of a classic 60s happening with the combo of live painting and spontaneous music. Gallery owner Ki Smith mentions that “the cross pollination of different kinds of artists is what I get jazzed about — that’s when exciting things happen!”  

Barry Reynolds strumsPhoto by Bob Krasner
They play, she paints: Barry Reynolds, Elizabeth Kresch, Beo MoralesPhoto by Bob Krasner
Elizabeth Kresch came prepared with a variety of brushesPhoto by Bob Krasner
Beo Morales in a contemplative momentPhoto by Bob Krasner
Elizabeth Kresch painting Beo Morales as he playsPhoto by Bob Krasner

When it was over, audience member Carolyn Churchill told us, “I grew up in the Village and participated in happenings as a dancer. This brings back something that is missing — hands on artistic, organic creation. It was like watching a film.”

Morales, who has made his mark as a composer for films, noted that he enjoyed “the moments of conversation between the music and the artist.” Playing music that was created on the spot is not something that Reynolds is known for, as he admits, but it’s a safe bet that the audience was happier with his performance than he was. 

“I came from a Northern Soul background,” Reynolds explains. “I love to improvise but I’ve made my living as a writer and I’ve always backed singers. I wasn’t really happy with my performance tonight.”

He was most likely the only one with that opinion, as everyone hung around afterwards  talking about how much they enjoyed it. 

Although the music shifted through various moods and incorporated all kinds of instrumental sounds from the MIDI — including random voices — it always provided a perfect background to watch Kresch, who found that the live soundtrack “definitely influenced the painting — it was a rhythm assist, “ she said, adding that, “it provided a flow and gave me energy if I started to lag.”

She particularly enjoyed the “voices that were mixed into the music. It was magical and I enjoyed being part of it.”

Paintings by Victoria de Lesseps are currently displayed in the performance space/galleryPhoto by Bob Krasner
Beo Morales captures Elizabeth Kresch as she finishes up his portraitPhoto by Bob Krasner
Kresch has almost finished the artwork, about an hour laterPhoto by Bob Krasner
Gallery owner Ki Smith watching from the sidelinesPhoto by Bob Krasner
Photographer Daniel Efram records the proceedings while seated next to a painting by Victoria de LessepsPhoto by Bob Krasner

Photographer Daniel Efram praised her finished work — which she was quite happy with.

“Watching Liz Kresch — a live painter working with a human subject — before an audience takes a lot of skill and a fair amount of confidence, both of which were on full display,” Efram said. “This type of event is perfect for ‘process’ geeks who love to watch from concept to end result.”

When Smith, Reynolds and Morales first discussed the idea for the event, they “didn’t know what to expect,” admits Smith. Watching the creators onstage put him into “a pseudo trance of sorts … you get kind of lost for a moment. It’s exciting when the artists get lost in it as well.”

Smith, who has had a number of different gallery spaces over the years, is looking forward optimistically to more nights like this but with variations.

“Moving into the future we will see more artists, musicians and poets involved. I want to showcase the incredible network that Barry has in the city,” Smith said. “As the event evolves it will get tighter and more interesting. There are less and less places that showcase experimental work….this performance is the kind of scene that I want to make space for. I’m so excited to be hosting it.”

More info on upcoming events, including the next Barry Reynolds night on March 24, can be found here: kismithgallery.com/events-2.

And for all you Instagram followers, you can find them at: @barryreynolds4942 , @beo33333 and @elizabethkresch.