The Guggenheim Museum’s current special exhibition is a retrospective of works by John Chamberlain, a sculptor who worked primarily with automobile steel before his death last year. The vast majority of Chamberlin’s sculptures look like miniature car crashes, their crumpled forms projecting chaos, drama and a dark internal rhythm. It’s fitting, then, that during her performance inside the museum’s rotunda, Zola Jesus hit many of these same notes while bouncing her operatic voice off of Chamberlain’s masses of twisted steel. Working her way through a series of compositions written in collaboration with composer JG Thirlwell and performing alongside the Mivos string quartet, the woman born Nika Danilova pushed her already-theatric, large-scale Goth pop to fill the considerable space.
Clad in all white and wearing an apparatus around her neck that looked like an illuminated Fibonacci sequence (not to mention the museum’s spiral ramp), Danilova looked like a sculpture herself, her shock of platinum blonde hair obscuring her face for most of the performance. While Danilova’s arresting presence and rich, mournful voice were clearly the focal point, the performance’s success was owed in no small part to the instrumentation. The Mivos Quartet provided ample lift, weaving their strings in to and out of the spaces in between Danilova’s pounding rhythms and smears of synth. It made even her darkest melodies feel airy.