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The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art presented the illuminating, three-part exhibition “Art of Jazz: Form/Performance/Notes.” The exhibition, held in conjunction with the Harvard Art Museums, private collectors, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and two Manhattan galleries—DC Moore Gallery and Luhring Augustine Gallery—explored the intersection of jazz music and the visual arts. Through more than 70 pieces ranging from early Jazz Age objects and mid-century jazz ephemera to contemporary works by established African American artists, “Art of Jazz” traced the beginnings of jazz in visual culture and how it was embraced internationally as an art form, a social movement, and a musical iconography for Black expression.

 
 

Installation Views

“Form” and “Performance” were curated by Harvard University art historians Suzanne Preston Blier and David Bindman. “Form” was a collection of drawings, prints and other artworks; “Performance” was an assortment of books, album covers, and other ephemera. Together they featured visual works by Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock; writings by Langston Hughes and musician W.C. Handy (known as “the Father of the Blues”); photographs by Hugh Bell and Carl Van Vechten of legends like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Dizzy Gillespie and Lena Horne; a portrait of James Baldwin by modernist painter Beauford Delaney; and more. "Performance" included a sound installation accompanying an exhibition of artist-designed album covers.

“Notes,” curated by Cooper Gallery Director Vera Grant, unfolded through five of Cooper’s main galleries, responding to the other two pieces of the exhibition with contemporary art that illustrated how late 20th- and 21st-century artists view and engage with jazz. It showcased works by painters, sculptors, musicians and more, including award-winning jazz pianist Jason Moran (who contributed a music-based installation in tribute to jazz legends and the clubs where they played), conceptual painter Lina Viktor, installation artist Whitfield Lovell, collage artist Cullen Washington, photographer Ming Smith, and sculptor/photographer/clothing designer Christopher Myers.

 
Jazz as we know it is a vibrant art form, transcending medium divides and categorical boundaries around the world.
— Director Vera Grant