Parental control

“Dirty Baby,” the offspring of a Wilco guitarist, a poet and an iconic pop artist strives to be a “loveable mutt” of a performance — not some purebred golden retriever.

Cryptogramophone Records

“Dirty Baby” presents a melding of the works of artist Ed Ruscha, poet David Breskin and musician Nels Cline without a beatnik playing the bongos, as Breskin explained. Here they stand by a few barbecues for some reason.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

What: “Dirty Baby” with Nels Cline, David Breskin and Ed Ruscha

When: 8 p.m., Thursday

Where: McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $25 ($22 Walker members)


Three yellow block letters float on a blue background in Ed Rushca’s 1962 painting “OOF” —an illustrative example of a marriage between sound and vision. The Los Angeles-based pop artist’s works deeply inspired the multimedia work, “Dirty Baby.”

“You can’t look at that painting without hearing the sound — “OOF,” poet and “Dirty Baby” collaborator David Breskin said.

Billed as a “trialogue,” the live visual arts-music-poetry hybrid showing at the Walker Art Center doesn’t use the painting’s bold onomatopoeia. Instead, 66 works from Ruscha’s “Cityscapes” and “Silhouettes” series provide dark visual context for the music and poetry of “Dirty Baby.” Ruscha’s use of censor strips covering these paintings’ words creates an entry point for Breskin, who provides spoken word for the project’s live performance.

Ruscha often plays with sound and unseen words in his work, offering clues to the project’s broad-ranging “synesthesia,” a blending of sensations, as Breskin describes. The marriage of competing forms creates something wholly new, however impure the product may be, as the project’s title signifies.

“You create some offspring when you mate the different art forms,” Breskin said. “The baby is not pure. It is a mutt. Hopefully, a loveable mutt and an interesting dog that barks a lot.”

Musician Nels Cline might be better known for his straightforward rock aesthetics in the indie band Wilco, but the guitarist also makes stunning instrumental avant-garde and jazz compositions. His roots in improvisation and free-form music guide sides A and B of “Dirty Baby,” a work representative of Cline’s wide-ranging creative interests outside of Wilco.

“A rock and roll show is somewhat scripted, if not wholly scripted depending on the band,” Cline said. “[With ‘Dirty Baby’], there’s a lot more vagueness, a lot more freedom.”

The music of “Dirty Baby” culls everything from American rock, blues, R&B and Middle Eastern-inspired tones for the overarching narrative Breskin presents in his poetry. Cline’s nine-piece band plays everything from a pedal steel guitar to violins and cellos. Breskin, who’s also a music producer, chose Cline for the creative collision “Dirty Baby” encapsulates.

“It’s not just like trying to pick someone who’s the same as someone else — it’s the friction that gets created between the genres,” Breskin said.

Ruscha’s framework provides the backbone for Breskin’s narratives alongside the frenetic sounds of Cline. Breskin used the titles to Ruscha’s paintings to write the poetry of “Dirty Baby.”

“I was trying to use them as a skeleton or vertebrae to build an interesting narrative,” Breskin said.

Employing an ancient Arabic poetic form, the ghazal, Breskin presents a primordial civilization’s rise and destruction, at times referring to the American military presence in Iraq. One of his ghazals even uses the voices of Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein. Breskin doesn’t strive for a one-note emotional reaction or message to “Dirty Baby,” rather a colliding blend of art, music and poetry.

“This is not like a Sunday school sermon nor is it a European history survey 101,” Breskin said. “I think that would be dreadful.”

“It requires an innocent kind of openness,” Cline said.