Music between the leaves

A review of what Flying V Down offered before the central piece was stolen

Artist Matt Rogalsky says the guitar used in his exhibit is not an original Gibson Flying V but a replica.
Artist Matt Rogalsky says the guitar used in his exhibit is not an original Gibson Flying V but a replica.
Credit: 
Supplied

To the exam-consumed passerby, a black Flying V electric guitar protruding from the ground at 448 Bagot St. could go unnoticed. The guitar, nestled amongst the fallen leaves, is a new art installation by the Swamp Ward Window project. Flying V Down is a tribute to the history and culture of the electric guitar and its musically groundbreaking sound — this guitar literally breaks the ground.

Flying V Down is a part of a larger series that Kingston-based artist and musician Matt Rogalsky is planning on creating. The Flying V Down series in its entirety would incorporate over 20 guitars.

The way the guitar pierces the ground is reminiscent of meteors falling from the sky, ending their descent deep in the earth. The stiff positioning of the guitar screams that it is ready to be found and revered.

First released in 1958 by the Gibson Guitar Corporation, the Flying V model became iconic for its V-shaped body design. The model has been used by rock and roll legends including Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen, Neil Young and Johnny Winter.

It’s telling that Rogalsky chose the recognizable Flying V for his installation. The guitar faces the street proudly and defiantly, as if showing its readiness to take on any guitarist, any song and any palpitating riff.

Rogalsky currently plays the electric guitar, bass and mandolin with Kingston-based band the Gertrudes.

The single fallen Flying V on Bagot Street seems to capture the essence of the electric guitar, whose sound revolutionized the music scene in the 1940s and 1950s. Rogalsky’s installation calls to mind the musical fervor and moral panic caused by rock ‘n’ roll. The guitar’s V-shaped body juts up from a typical suburban front yard, with its stark black and white colouring emphasizing its foreign placement.

The iconography of the electric guitar is storied; it seems to comprise broadly the rock ‘n’ roll state of mind. Looking at Rogalsky’s piece, it isn’t hard to imagine being at the first concert where, to the outrage of devoted folk music fans, Bob Dylan plugged in, and left behind his acoustic sound.

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