Inside D.C. entertainment

The exhibition 'The Blues and Other Colors' evokes jazz

December 9, 2011 - 01:03 PM
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The Dream Chamber: In Conversation (Jarvis Grant)

Tim Davis grew up in Chicago in the '60s and '70s, when the blues permeated local clubs and bars. "For me, as an artist, when I looked at my work I had no absence of blues," he says. "If you started to look at what's around us, it's blues everywhere...we don't think about how important that color is."

The photographer and gallery director is the curator of "The Blues and Other Colors," a show that shares its name with an album, recorded in 1968 and 1969, by the late jazz saxophonist James Moody.

The DC Arts Center's current exhibition features the works of nine artists' interpretation of the "blues." Davis left the parameters open-ended. "You see it, the ocean, the blue sky, it's like a natural thing that kind of just radiates within us, and I think that's why artists are drawn to use blues within their palettes. I wanted everybody to kind of recognize that," he says. "But it can also mean negative — that you're hurting, sadness, you got the blues,...the music genre."

Whether in realism, in abstraction or in digital, all 12 works in the show share a relationship.

Caroline Goodrich's Duality, an encaustic on wood panel, is a breathtaking abstraction that conveys an earthly feeling, while J'Nell Jordan's Mirage, an oil on acrylic on Masonite board, documents scenes in bars and public places. In this piece, people are hanging out, and there's a sense that the scene's filled with the blues -- maybe sadness, maybe music.

Jarvis Grant's pieces, In Conversation and The Quest, are pieces of a larger series. Chromatically fitting, Grant says, In Conversation features two people — who are physically the same person — in a bedroom, in thought, splashed against the backdrop of a blue sky wall. "The more intimate setting of the bedroom, I kind of think of that photograph as this kind of place where thought takes place, but not just thought but thinking of things outside of oneself [and] thinking of things inside of self."

Other pieces in the show speak as accidental mirrors of one another. Cedric Baker's Moon Indigo, is an abstract interpretation of Duke Ellington's composition but the same feeling resonates in Bruce McNeil's Heavenly, a digital print on canvas of the Anacostia River.

When Davis asked the artists if they'd listened to jazz or blues while composing their pieces, he found that many of them did. Although the "blues" as a theme unites the works, "what they did abstractly, and what they did realistically came together because I believe there was a common goal...the music."

"The Blues and Other Colors" runs to Jan. 8 at DC Arts Center.

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