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Close Look: “What Music is Within” at Ogden Museum, New Orleans

Installation view of What Music is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. All images courtesy of the Ogden Museum.
Robert Reed, San Romano, Monticello, Brick II, 1982; Aqua-Tec on canvas, 84 by 72 inches.

My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me.

Countee Cullen
John Scott, Ritual Cutter (No. 2), Butterfly Pin-up, Ritual Cutter (No. 1) (from left to right), 1978; painted wood construction, 32 by 17 inches, 42 by 15 inches, 33 1/2 by 9 inches (from left to right).
Jeffrey Cook, Vanessa’s Secret, 1999 – 2001; mixed media, 17 1/2 by 17 inches.
Arlington Weithers, Throop Street Series: Thalos Script, 1999; Acrylic polymer emulsion with dry pigment; 59 by 49 inches.

These works use abstraction as a powerful modality of expression. Each of these artists project their own voice to convey their individual visions. With work that spans almost five decades, this exhibition includes masters such as Sam Gilliam and emerging practitioners like Horton Humble.

The creative process is a highly individual and personal endeavor – a way of giving physical form to abstract ideas or emotions. The African American artists in this exhibition all have deep ties to the American South and they each create through the language of abstraction. Yet, even with those shared elements of identity, they maintain strong unique voices, expressing, as Countee Cullen wrote, “what music is within.”

from the accompanying exhibition text
John Barnes, Doe Poppin’ II, 2015; Red Oak and plywood, 48 by 26 by 4 inches.
Kevin Cole, Jacob’s Ladder Joy and Pain, 2002; mixed media on wood, 48 by 38 inches.
Installation view of: What Music is Within at Ogden Museum of Southern Art, featuring Horton Humble, Scattered Sight, 2017; oil, acrylic and pencil on board, 72 by 48 inches.

What Music is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection is on view at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Louisiana, through July 5.

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