Romare Bearden: A Blend of Music and Culture Essay

Romare Bearden: A Blend of Music and Culture Essay

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Romare Bearden was one of the most influential African American artists of the twentieth century. He grew up in New York and contributed largely to the progressive art of the Harlem Renaissance. He captured lively scenes of everyday life in his former home towns of North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Harlem. Some of his most highly regarded works take on the subject of music, jazz and blues in particular. He not only depicted musical scenes in his art, but he also composed and played in various jazz bands. It is clear that Romare Bearden's series Of the Blues and other works were highly influenced by the jazz and blues culture of Harlem.
In 1975, an exhibition was held at Cordier & Eckstrom Gallery in New York featuring Bearden’s charming musical progression: Of the Blues. This series was comprised of nineteen captivating collages featuring New York City clubs and other music scenes. This group of artwork explores jazz from every angle, says Schwartzman: “ the 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), then to its performers, and finally to its abstract sounds". The collages from this exhibition showed the intensely personal relationship and interaction that Bearden had with music and its culture. He successfully illustrates the upbeat club atmosphere through a dynamic use of color and form that expresses the vibrant melodies that were performed. The notes of the instruments are nearly palpable when viewing this work.
A piece from 1974, entitled Of the Blues: Carolina Shout, was part of the series. It is a collage of what appears to be a baptism scene. One can assume that from the figures that stand above blue, watery f...

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...float because there is no apparent ground. the background is bright red and has large graphic circles of yellows, pinks, and blues. They seem to echo the idea of musical notes. It is composed of flat figural forms cut from vibrant paper. This was not the only album cover that Romare Bearden ever created. He also did another album cover for Wynton Marsalis called J Mood.
One can see that Romare Bearden's artwork was highly influenced by music. It can be seen in the bright and lively New York club scenes with the dancing couples and band performances. It can also be seen in the collages that depict the gritty music culture outside of the venues in the Storyville. He even used the improvisational method of jazz as technique for creating his dynamic collages. Bearden was certainly a genius at epitomizing vibrant, upbeat scenes of life in the jazz and blues culture.

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