Monday, December 27, 2010

Free Jazz!?

Rahsaan Roland Kirk
35" x 19"
oil on wood, 2010
When I think about 'jazz paintings' I cringe. I suddenly feel my gums recede and become aware of arthritis in my knuckles. You've seen 'em, everybody's seen 'em, I saw 'em too many times, those paintings, gestural, with swirly lines, smoking audiences, and negro female dancers with exaggerated buttocks. Those paintings made in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a jazz combo improvisation onto a canvas. I'm not calling any artist's names (not that I could think of one from the top of my head anyway, but there are many, professionals and amateurs) because I know as a matter of fact what it feels like to make those paintings (and I don't want to discard any type of painting for the type it is). For a moment the painter can identify with the spirituality caused by a crazy high note, the moment when a combo miraculously slips in and out of time in unison as if weightless, or the essence of the ancient sorcerer or shaman in higher contact with the animalistic creator of the universe. Commercially speaking the portraits of jazz musicians have been my most successful but I have been able, I think, to stay away from making the quintessential jazz painting. I have painted well over one hundred jazz musicians so far, none of them with the intention to mimic the spirit of a jazz performance, but with a focus on the human characteristics of a person or the formal composition of a musician figure in a spacial context. Until now! I never made a jazz painting as large as I did with this one of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I never focused on a jazz cliche (such as the super large cheeks when blowing a horn) either; combine this with the for me uncharacteristic black primer on the surface as if it were a black velvet painting and there you have the ingredients of a 'jazz painting'. OMG, I made a "JAZZ PAINTING!"

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