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 Montpelier Magazine

Disc jockey Chartier performs at Treatment in Baltimore's Sonar Lounge.

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Sculptures of Sound

IN A WORLD FILLED WITH NOISE, Richard Chartier's work is music to the focused ear. Blurring the line between sound  and silence, Chartier ('93) is a minimalist sound artist engaging audiences worldwide in the art of  listening and gaining international acclaim.

Chartier began working with sound and electronics in 1987. A native of Northern Virginia who now resides in Baltimore, Chartier says that his work began to take on a "more abstract, nonnarrative form" when he came to JMU in 1989. This shift stemmed from his exposure to the visual arts he studied under James Crable, the JMU professor and photographer who taught his drawing class. "I learned so much about artists and working with formalist concerns," Chartier says today. "How he taught the class influenced how I looked at art and the process of painting."

While a student at JMU, Chartier earned both the Art Achievement Award and Best Studio Artist Award, and his paintings were featured in local galleries. He graduated cum laude in 1993 with a B.A. in fine arts.

These successes paved the way for Chartier's post-JMU career, which initially focused on painting exhibits in Washington, D.C. His artwork was displayed at the D.C. Art Center and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, among others.

Gradually, Chartier's sound art re-emerged and took center stage. "I stopped painting about two years ago when I felt that I could better achieve my aesthetic goals through sound as my medium," he says. "With painting, many people immediately want to make metaphors to relate what something looks like. Sound is a far more abstract medium. Sounds are usually related to what emits them by the actual image of that object. By removing that object they become more abstract. I try to approach as closely as possible a state of nonreferentiality within the work itself."

Chartier's work has been heard on more than 20 recordings, including 10 solo releases. Best listened to with headphones, his compositions range from clicks and buzzes to nearly inaudible pulses. Computers take the place of musical instruments, and Chartier uses these digital tools to create his audio sculptures.

In 2000, Chartier and fellow artist Taylor Deupree launched a record label called LINE, a subdivision of the label 12K. "Taylor and I formed the label at first as a means to release my work series and the U.K. duo Immedia's work, since their nature was so resolutely minimal," Chartier says. The label has continued to focus on international sound artists exploring what Chartier calls "the aesthetics of contemporary digital minimalism."

Last spring, Chartier's work was chosen for inclusion in the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition in New York. His sound installation, on exhibit through this month, provides a quiet room where visitors can listen to his CD, series. "Being selected is a great honor," Chartier says. "The biennial featured quite a number of sound artists, which led some to deem it the 'sound biennial.'"

In addition to his recordings, Chartier performs live and frequently travels through-out Europe and Asia. This year alone, he has visited Germany, the Netherlands and Japan. He also makes time to serve as a curator and disc jockey at two D.C. area events featuring electronic music and sound - Filler at D.C.'s Blue Room and Treatment at Baltimore's Sonar Lounge.

Chartier's upcoming pro-jects include a sound installation for Tokyo's contemporary art museum, ICC. He also returned to JMU this semester to talk with art majors. According to Cole Welter, director of JMU's School of Art and Art History, it was an opportunity to honor Char-tier's recent successes and his bright future. "His very original and thoughtful work in 'sculpting sound' may well lead him to levels of recognition and renown that place him in the art history books that future JMUers of all majors study as one of the masters of 21st-century art," Welter says.

- Liz Cerami Taylor ('92)