Q: I especially enjoy your “Black Paintings” series. You mention being influenced by the story of how Miles Davis developed cool jazz, making this work uniquely American all around. How did you use jazz history in this series?
A: In 2007 I finished the Domestic Threats series and was blocked, certain that a strong body of work was behind me. But what would come next?
The idea for the Black Paintings began when I attended a jazz history course at Lincoln Center and learned how Miles Davis developed cool jazz from bebop. In bebop the notes were played hard and fast as musicians showcased their musical virtuosity. Cool jazz was a much more relaxed style with fewer notes being played. In other words, the music was pared down to its essentials. Similarly, the Black Paintings evolved from dense, intricate compositions into paintings that depicted only the essential elements. As the series evolved, what was left out became more important, resulting in more demands being placed on the viewer.
Eventually, after much reflection, I had an epiphany and my painful creative block ended. “Between,” with drastically simplified imagery, was the first in a new series called Black Paintings. I like to think this series includes work that is richer and more profound than the previous Domestic Threats.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
As George Grosz said, at that last meeting he attended at the National Institute, “How did I come to be an artist? Endless curiosity, observation, research – and a great amount of joy in the thing.” It was a matter of taking a liking to things. Things that were in accordance with your taste. I think that was it. And we didn’t care how unhomogenous they might seem. Didn’t Aristotle say that it is the mark of a poet to see resemblances between apparently incongruous things? There was any amount of attraction about it.
Marianne Moore in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews Second Series, edited by George Plimpton
Comments are welcome!