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With an installation at Arthouse, Carlos Rosales-Silva pays homage to the mix tape

Luke Quinton

The Arthouse awning doesn't usually have a soundtrack, but it does now whether it asked for hokey '80s R&B or not thanks to Carlos Rosales-Silva.

The Okay Mountain member brings the funk to Arthouse's inaugural lobby project, a smart homage to East Austin and minority pop culture that he calls "National Register."

Rosales-Silva has a bushy black beard with a buzz cut, and silver glasses with oversize rims. He's wearing a pink-and-white striped dress shirt with black jean shorts.

When he started dabbling as a DJ (his moniker is LiL LoLo, the Don of Time, if you're wondering), and collecting tracks, he couldn't help but "dive into the history of everything" behind the music.

So he learned about boogie, funk, blues and jazz, gospel, Latin soul, Indian soul, even Peruvian psychedelic music.

He dipped into Art Laboe's "Oldies but Goodies," a collection of 1950s music from different record labels.

"The only place where a lot of these tracks exist is on these mixtapes," Rosales-Silva says.

They were the gateway to songs that in some cases existed nowhere else. "They're not made to be archives," Rosales-Silva says, "but they inadvertently become them."

Most of this music, new and old, didn't garner much critical acclaim, because it was not made for the critics, but for specific neighborhoods and eras.

Rosales-Silva does things that Okay Mountain, Austin's outstanding art collective, has done so well, like thinking hard about his audience.

"The impetus for everything was thinking about the viewer," he says. Aside from music, there is also some architecture, op-art and design.

Biking around East Austin, Rosales-Silva would see the diamond-shaped lattice that gets turned into privacy screens on porches and driveways though, he says, "You can see right through them."

He saw a parallel between the music and the lattices, and so he built a screen to line Arthouse's windows.

The screen stands in a concrete base and is painted with a dual color scheme — white on the street side, red, yellow and purple inside.

On the street side, the colors poke out behind the white and shift as you move past. The lattices are "activated as you walk by them," Rosales-Silva says.

And "they don't function until you're leaving them."

DJ LiL LoLo programmed four mix tapes, with posters for each one. They line the inside lattice (maybe a missed opportunity — seeing them from the street seems like a logical attention-grabber), hilarious riffs on cover art from Houston's mix tape cover artists Pen & Pixel.

The poster for Rosales-Silva's second mix, "Songs for Potential Lovers," shows two dolphins airborne and obviously much in love.

As we stand inside, the chorus from "Baby Come Back" blares out.

The first mix, "Ridin," shows a wine-colored sedan with big triangle rims. It's appropriately framed inside a triangle, with titles in gold letters, like paper bling, from a time before the word "bling" existed.

But the most important thing to note is that Rosales-Silva is not mining this material for irony. It's funny, but he's serious about all three elements.

"Being able to play an Aaliyah song in a museum, it's so awesome," he says.

For Rosales-Silva, having the chance to work in this style, to emulate the confusing, literally incredible language of '90s digital art is an honor.

Take the cover for Big Bear's album, "Doin Thangs," he says with a chuckle.

"Three bears will be sitting with a man at a dinner table and the man's smoking a cigar, and there's like jewels everywhere. And it's totally fake but it looks so incredible it doesn't matter."

By working in a style that is "below" the design, architecture and music produced by people with a college degree, Rosales-Silva is bringing minority culture to a place it was never intended to be.

And the pleasure it gives viewers to see a museum's front porch loosen its tie and get a little funky will probably spread the idea around the country in the process.

"National Register"

When: through Nov. 27

Where:Arthouse, 700 Congress Ave.

Cost:Free

Info: www.arthousetexas.org