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IF an artist decided to write a piece of music instead of painting a picture, what would the work sound like? If there were lyrics, what would they say? Jeff Gordon, a New York artist-turned-pop-music-composer-and-record-producer, has spent the last year pursuing answers to those questions.
This month, in a two-record album released by Philips Classics/Polygram and in an art exhibition at the Nohra Haime Gallery (1000 Madison Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets), where paintings will be exhibited with headphones hanging nearby, Mr. Gordon offers the fruits of his research.
The album, entitled ''Artsounds Collection,'' contains 20 songs, poetry readings and assorted other sound pieces composed and performed by such established and younger contemporary artists as Jonathan Borofsky, Tom Wesselman, Larry Rivers, Italo Scanga, Thomas Lanigan- Schmidt, Yura Adams and Philemona Williamson.
Enclosed in each album, which costs $19.95, is a poster containing small-scale reproductions of prints by the artists, which in many cases bear a connection, sometimes clear and sometimes not, to the music. A deluxe edition of the album (only 200 to be sold, at $2,500 each) comes with a box containing the signed and numbered prints.
''A lot of artists want to express themselves in other ways, besides the visual, and we've given them the opportunity to do that,'' explains Mr. Gordon. ''It shows that there are a lot of parallels between sound and sight. I think for too long, they've been kept separate.''
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The current album is Mr. Gordon's second foray into the shared ground of sound and sight. An earlier album, ''Revolutions Per Minute,'' contained songs and sound pieces by the artists represented by the Ronald Feldman art gallery in SoHo.
The surprising success of the previous album - an art exhibition with recordings toured a dozen art museums in this country and Europe from 1982 to 1985, including the Tate Gallery in London - encouraged Mr. Gordon to engage other artists for a second album. The earlier success also lured the prestigious Philips Classics/Polygram label to underwrite the current album, which, Mr. Gordon says, the company hopes will sell 100,000 copies worldwide.
As for the music, its sounds are as varied as the works by the artists themselves, which range from abstract to figurative, busily decorative to minimal in style. A song by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, whose paintings resemble religious icons made from material like glitter and foil, is sung like a Roman Catholic high-mass chant whose lyrics recount memories of growing up in northern New Jersey.
Larry Rivers, known as a jazz composer and saxophonist, plays an original composition with his jazz group, the East 13th Street Band. Connie Beckley, once a vocalist with the original Philip Glass Ensemble and now a painter and performance artist, sings a sort of minimalist round with lyrics borrowed from a science text by Sir Isaac Newton.
A lilting country-music tune by Tom Wesselman, the Pop artist best known for his voluptuous reclining female nudes, neatly combines the worlds of music and art in its lyrics: Now you know that I love you and I want to be, The one in your heart, must only be me. But I've had to compete, right from the start, With those pictures on the wall of your heart. Staten Island Developing An Artistic Identity Brooklyn and Long Island City (the latter now called the East East Village by some artists, only half joking) are not the only places in New York City to experience a recent surge in their artistic profile.
Staten Island, too, is receiving its share of artist-exiles from Manhattan. Like Brooklyn with the Brooklyn Museum and Long Island City with P.S. 1, Staten Island also has its own contemporary art display space of increasingly high reputation: the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, at 1000 Richmond Terrace.
In the last year and a half, the center's art exhibitions, while not yet drawing Manhattan-size crowds, have stirred increasing interest, largely because of the efforts of its director of visual arts, John Perreault, who began presenting exhibitions there in early 1985.
Mr. Perreault, a former New York art critic and most recently the chief curator at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, has drawn attention to the center with such exhibitions as ''Naked Paint,'' which identified a current abstract art style, and shows of such contemporary artists as David Finn and Elizabeth Egbert.
Mr. Perreault has shown a flair for organizing shows popular with a wider audience as well. His ''New Liberty Monuments'' exhibition, for example, held earlier this year, contained works by contemporary artists whom he had commissioned to design new monuments to the idea of liberty.
He also exhibited Judy Chicago's ''Birth Project'' - the feminist artist's most recent work since her celebrated ''Dinner Project'' - which was shown in the New York area only at Snug Harbor. The current show, opening tomorrow, is an exhibition of drawings by 20 artists nationwide, chosen by a jury including Clement Greenberg, Nancy Hoffman and Mr. Perreault.
''I think contemporary art looks fantastic in a historical building,'' said Mr. Perreault, explaining why he enjoys the Victorian architecture that is pervasive at Snug Harbor. ''I have nothing against clean, straight white walls, but I enjoy placing something like a Christo drawing in an Eastlake interior. I think they bounce off each other in interesting ways.'' Mr. Perreault also has 80 acres of lawn to work with as temporary exhibition space for public sculpture.
It is his hope, Mr. Perreault said, to mount adventurous exhibitions of art that would otherwise have a hard time being shown in New York.
''It's a great opportunity to try out new things,'' he said. ''It does take time and effort to get out here, but the Staten Island Ferry does have its charms. And when people do get here, they are usually flabbergasted by what they see.''
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