What was only supposed to be a quick “hello” before three teens from Indiana attended the Chicago Art Expo turned into an unforgettable experience with Haring. This experience left them with priceless memories and an amazing Keith Haring private collection that no one has seen until now.
I sat down on a rainy Saturday afternoon at the MCA with members of CISA (only three of the five met Haring) to talk about and record their memories of meeting Haring as he worked on this mural project in Grant Park.
Saxophone or graphic design? That was a question artist Chad Kouri had to ask himself when deciding what type of career to pursue. Although, in the end, he chose art and design, music—and jazz in particular—has continued to be a very important aspect in his life. It’s something that informs his work and process as a working artist, which Kouri often describes as improvisational or intuitive, with a lot of trial and error; a lot of experimentation that may or may not work.
But jazz doesn’t just provide Kouri a method of working, it’s also inspiration for his series of works titled Jazz Movement Studies. This body of work began when Kouri first began exploring Chicago’s expansive community of lively free jazz, whose members can be seen at Tuesdays on the Terrace or in performances for The Freedom Principle. Coming from a more traditional jazz training, Kouri has explained: “this sub-genre confused me to say the least. In order to become more comfortable and intimate with these live performances, I started creating small intuitive and gestural drawings during a set, reacting to the physical movement of the performers as well as the sounds, riffs, pops, scratches, and anything else that came out of their instruments (or lack thereof).”
In his drawings you can see swirls and asterisks, zig-zags and figure-eights; marks that create a kind of vocabulary, often repeating within a piece or appearing in multiple works. It’s up to the viewer to assign meaning to these marks, decipher them, or simply enjoy a visual concert unfold. These marks usually become the only record of an experience that is likely unrecorded and improvised; an attempt to capture a fleeting experience—a challenge that Kouri enjoys rising to. There is, of course, artistic precedence for translating music, and especially jazz, into artwork. Kouri cites the bright colors, hard geometry, and abstraction of Stuart Davis (whose work you can see at the Art Institute of Chicago) as an influence on him artistically, and gravitated to it even before knowing there was a musical connection within the art. Josef Albers’s graphic, black-and-white album covers are another favorite of Kouri’s that combine music and visual art.
As an artist, Kouri strives to make his practice accessible to a public and hopes that his drawings will perhaps make free jazz music a little more accessible to everyone. As Kouri hopes for the viewer, “I’d like to think that people who wouldn’t be that excited about jazz music, [maybe what] I do could be an entry point into it.”
Catch Chad Kouri drawing at a Tuesdays on the Terrace or an MCA Stage performance over the course of The Freedom Principle, as he undertakes a special set of drawings for his Jazz Movement Studies related to the exhibition. And check out MCA DNA as we will be publishing his artwork on this blog regularly throughout the run of The Freedom Principle.
Dear All Chicago Artists,
You are all warmly invited to stand in a group portrait, rain or shine, on the steps of the MCA at 11:30 am on Saturday, June 20!
I want to ask impossible questions by attempting a photo like this: What does the Chicago art community look like? What kinds of communities make up this group? Who identifies as a Chicago artist? What can a group portrait tell us about artists in 2015? What might we learn from this image 10 years from now? How about 50?
With these in mind, I am thrilled to invite any and all of you to stand for a group portrait, rain or shine, on the steps of the MCA at 11:30 am on Saturday, June 20!
And for those artists who can’t come?
“All those absent giants of jazz, and others too numerous mention, are nonetheless felt somehow to be present—represented by musicians who played with them, and who inspired and were inspired by them. Like with any family reunion, its absent members are with us in spirit.”
—Ian Patterson, on those missing from the epic 1958 group portrait A Great Day in Harlem
I am inviting artists, if they choose, to bring a photo-of-a-face or head-cutout of someone who can’t make it to the photo shoot if they like. They would be asked to hold it right next to their head so as not to obstruct others:
There is a charming precedent for this seen on the lower left:
To honor this collective moment, I will submit the high-res image into the public domain for anyone to print, alter, and distribute as they see fit (as this seems to happen anyways in our image culture) . . . the image will live in the public where I think it belongs and we can watch it move around, mutate, and engage a greater audience (and multiple histories). Everyone is welcome to download, print, and hang the image as they see fit, publish it in a book, or make it part of their own creative project.
And last, a passage by Karl Oove Knausgaard I’ve been recently inspired by that I think resonates with the upcoming portrait:
The most powerful human forces are found in the meeting of the face and the gaze. Only there do we exist for one another. In the gaze of the other, we become, and in our own gaze others become. It is there, too, that we can be destroyed. Being unseen is devastating, and so is not seeing.
Here are three different views, highlighting the spectacular architecture of the Palacio Velazquez, of two paintings that together make up a triptych first seen on this tour in Vienna (see our earlier post): an impressive welcome to this crystal palace in a sun-soaked city park.