COLLAGE – MAKING A WHOLE
PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER TO MAKE A WHOLE
I am in awe of all creative artists who show up every night at the club or in front of their canvas or with a blank piece of paper. What do they have that allows them to go forward, often in public? How the heck can they make whole a lot of different parts with such surety.
Taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that and voila, an artist ends up with a powerful statement. In New Orleans our national art form, jazz music, grew out of a of a myriad of musical influences and keeps adding to its stew. In Harlem a visual artist, Romare Bearden took the riffs, vamps, and call and response endemic to blues and jazz and created evocative works, including his legendary collages, which have become almost became synonymous with jazz.
ROMARE BEARDEN Photo Frank Stewart
COLLAGE BY ROMARE BEARDEN AND JAZZ
Duke Ellington had a friend who inspired him because he was one of the best ever at describing old Harlem life and the American South’s heritage.
The friend, Romare Bearden was one of the most influential African American artists of the twentieth century. Romare was inspired in return by the “Duke” and all the jazz music that swirled around him.
Romare Bearden grew up in New York and contributed largely to the progressive art of the Harlem Renaissance. He captured scenes of everyday life in North Carolina towns, Pittsburgh and Harlem. His most highly regarded works take on the subject of music, jazz in particular. He composed music and played in various jazz bands. In 1975, Romare Bearden created a series of nineteen collages that he titled “Of the Blues”. This series traced jazz from its folk sources, sacred and secular, to the cities in which its major styles evolved (New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Kansas City). The collages from this exhibition showed the extremely personal relationship and interaction that Bearden had with music. The music can almost be felt and heard when viewing his collages.
One may wonder why Bearden chose the technique of collage to support jazz music, and later the Civil Rights Movement. The reason he used this technique was because “he felt that art portraying the lives of African Americans did not give full value to the individual. In doing so he was able to combine abstract art with real images so that people of different cultures could grasp the subject matter of the African American culture: The people. This is why his theme always exemplified people of color. In addition, collage’s technique of gathering several pieces together to create one assembled work “symbolizes the coming together of tradition and communities.”
BEARDEN’S ART AND JAZZ
Bearden always talked about jazz in regards to making a move and then responding to that particular move and then recalling it later in a painting .
He said of his collages, “It seems to me that that idea sort of came out of the jazz jam session, where people get together and make something, and it’s unpredictable,”
Among Romare’s many admirers were Wynton and Branford Marsalis who wrote music inspired by his art.
HERE IS BRANFORD MARSALIS
“Bearden’s work probably influenced me subconsciously, because his philosophy and line of reasoning directly coincide with mine,” Branford continues. “My father brought in all these Picasso pieces when I was 10, but I had no real consciousness [of them] at all. They kind of awakened things in me that I didn’t even know were there. By the time I was able to appreciate Romare’s work, it was more like a kindred spirit relationship. His work had that kind of depth that I was striving for.”
ROMARE BEARDEN WAS A FORMIDABLE FIGURE. HE WAS A POWERFULLY CONSTRUCTED ARTIST WITH A DELICATE TOUCH
The cross currents of strength and caring, power and gentleness, force and caress are so often paired together in those we admire.
My grandfather was a tall raw boned man who was Gary Cooper strong. We moved some heavy stuff together and he always carried more than his share of the load. We spent a lot of time together reading, making ice cream and husking corn. My father was a physically powerful man of average height who taught me how to hold a fork. They remain two strong but gentle influences on me.
ALL JAZZ PLAYERS KNOW THAT YOU CAN’T BULLY AN INSTRUMENT INTO PLAYING GOOD MUSIC
THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
NOVEMBER 16 – 19, 2016
Walt Szymanski will bring his artist friends into the Dirty Dog to make us whole again.