June 16 2015 08:00 PM

Neil Kendricks and Carlos Pelayo screen their collaborative video-art installation, 'Wounded Sky,' at Not an Exit Gallery.

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Carlos Pelayo and Neil Kendricks
Photo by Seth Combs

There's a point in my conversation with Neil Kendricks and Carlos Pelayo when I compare them to teenage girls. They both laugh at the comparison, but also acknowledge that, for more than the 15 years they've known each other, they've developed a kindred synergy that has resulted in not only finishing each other's sentences, but in some exciting movies and video-art. 

"My strong suit is the visuals, but I'm not an editor," says Kendricks. "I don't have the temperament to sit in front of a screen and find that connective tissue that might be in a lot of the footage. That's what Carlos brings to the table. It's wonderful when you can find a collaborator that speaks the same language." 

It's rare that one finds their artistic soul mate. Diego had Frida. Van Gogh had Gauguin. Hall had Oates. Kendricks and Pelayo also seem to have that ineffable chemistry. 

Wounded Sky

Together, they've worked on several films and documentary pieces, and once traveled to Cuba in 2002 where they ended up accidentally having drinks with Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski. 

More recently, they finished an experimental film titled Wounded Sky, which they'll be showing at Not an Exit Gallery inside the Bread & Salt building in Barrio Logan. The four-minute piece features ethereal video vignettes of indecipherable, bird's-eye landscapes that Kendricks shot with a lo-fi Flip Mono camera from the window seat of a passenger plane. Kendricks says he wasn't sure why he was shooting and collecting all these airplane shots, or what he was going to do with all the footage shots, until he approached Pelayo. 

"Neil came to me earlier this year with the idea and had the images, but he said he needed help," says Pelayo, who layered and blended the plane window videos with shots of birds, or from the inside of a car wash, to give the whole thing a dreamlike look. "I've always admired the more abstract and experimental films. It sounded like fun to me at the time and it's just grown from there." 

The resulting piece of video is as engrossing as it is surreal. It helps that Kendricks commissioned New York-based musicians Mike Mare (Destructo Swarmbots) and Will Brooks (dälek) to create an ambient instrumental score for the film, which, naturally, gives the whole thing a hypnotic feel. 

And whereas they could have simply set up a projector and screened the film at Not an Exit (which opens June 20 from 6 to 9 p.m.), the duo decided to turn the piece into an installation-type experience. They'll have the video projected onto the floor and viewers will have to look in through the small gallery windows or, if they're brave, climb a ladder and view the film by looking down upon it from the gallery roof, which will be removed for the show. 

That is, patrons will not actually be allowed inside the gallery, but rather will have to view the art much like how Kendricks looked down upon the world with his small video camera. 

"I love that sense of abstract," says Kendricks. "That when you're so high above the earth that things become patterns, and the landscape itself becomes this natural geometry with circles and grids." 

After the Not an Exit installation, they'll submit Wounded Sky to film festivals, but are already looking forward to working on another project together. "I don't ever want people to think Carlos is just the editor of a piece we work on," says Kendricks. "He's a co-author. The co-director. Often our work together is like a jam session. We riff off each other for a piece of visual music."


Email editor@sdcitybeat.com or follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.

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