Betty Monteavaro and Gavin Perry are two visual artists working in Miami that also form the band Holly Hunt. Perry is an eclipsing figure who towers over the diminutive Monteavaro and both of them share a guarded stoicism that might seem a bit intense at first, but it eventually gives way to amiable, casual joking and thought sharing. The longtime couple met at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and have each carved out a distinct visual practice. Monteavaro illustrates ghoulish figures parading horror-filled voids and builds abstracted environments and figures that are equally plaguing, while Perry’s oeuvre threads a modernism with effigies and paintings based on linear geometrics and brightly-colored, drippy resins. Though aesthetically disparate, they both impart alchemy, edification, and ruthlessness in their work.
They’ve shown at international exhibitions and galleries aplenty, but this year the Art Basel committee asked if they would host an open studio for visitors throughout the week. They showed to a number of collectors and curators - Thurston Moore even paid a visit – and the week ended with a barbecue. The studio is a palimpsest of paint, zines, flyers, textiles and action figures, their “final” pieces set up but almost as an afterthought. The work itself for both of them is layered – old work is piled on, re-used and conscientiously flung together. Having moved from the posh Wynwood arts district to the economically depressed Allapattah neighborhood, they knowingly keep a distance from the art world proper but have created work that is both fringe and revered, singular and democratic.
In one corner of the studio is a practice space messy with amps, snaking cables and old drum parts. As Holly Hunt, they unleash a controlled squall of sound that is crushing yet warmly enveloping. Having had a string of minor releases, Holly Hunt is putting out their first full-length, ten-song double LP on Other Electricities and Roofless Records. Slowly storming, the record is the most exemplary release to date that captures Perry’s rounded, feedback-laden guitar – which alone sounds like a dozen – and Monteavaro’s pounding, loosely hinged drumming. As to how they feel when comparing the art and music worlds, it’s obvious they enjoy both, but feel that music has a certain essence that can’t be commoditized or exploited - or at least, not as easily and readily as it is with visual art. “It’s not the same in the music scene,” Monteavaro remarked. “People are genuinely excited.”