Blurring the lines between art and music at the TMA
Art and music have always worked in tandem, but in modern and contemporary discourse, the line between “artist” and “musician” becomes increasingly blurred. Explore how the visual and musical arts continue to inspire each other in the Toledo Museum of Art’s multisensory exhibition, Everything is Rhythm: Mid-Century Art & Music, jointly curated by Halona Norton-Westbrook, director of curatorial affairs, and Scott Boberg, manager of programs and audience engagement.
“The Toledo Museum of Art has long celebrated the promotion of both the visual and musical arts,” explained Norton-Westbrook. “Everything is Rhythm seeks to engage visitors by prompting close looking, contemplation and consideration of the connection between visual and auditory forms.”
Drawing from form
The exhibition, which opens Saturday, April 6, takes inspiration from the acclaimed mid-century abstract painter Larry Poons, whose work is featured prominently in the exhibit.
In 2017, writer David Rhodes of the Brooklyn Rail visited Poons in his Union Square studio, where he has painted since 1975. It was just before Poon’s major exhibition of his solo, large-scale paintings at the Yares Gallery, Momentum, which debuted new work from the then 80-year-old artist.
During their interview, Poons made a distinction between pattern and rhythm, one that retrospectively defines the painter’s oeuvre of large, abstract paintings with pulsing color, op-art aesthetics, and movement:
“A rhythm is simply the distance between here and here. A dancer moves a finger from one place to another; that’s rhythm. Whether you notice it or not, to move intrinsically— it’s rhythm to be alive. Or not. Even a piece of chemistry moves, responds to conditions. You don’t need to say rhythm needs to be conscious; it’s just a word for everything. You can think of it that way.”
Putting thought into movement
Poons, like many mid-century artists, helped to blur the line between the “artist” and “musician,” early in his career, working as a musical composer and performer, highlighted with The Druds, a short-lived avant-garde noise band featuring LaMonte Young, Jasper Johns, Patty Mucha, and Walter de Maria— a sort of all-star lineup of the New York conceptual and minimal art scene of the 1960s.
While Poons later focused exclusively on visual art, that initial relationship between art and music was continually celebrated in his career, as well as in modern and contemporary discourse.
In Everything is Rhythm, Boberg and Norton-Westbrook expertly selected 20th-century abstract paintings to be paired with curated musical compositions. The 14 inspiring art and music pairings will be brought to life with special events held throughout the duration of the exhibition, on view through November 3.
“In some instances, the composer and artist were known to one another and shared a direct connection, while in other instances, the selected musical composition and art work share ideas, approaches or aspects such as rhythm, texture or basic structure. In some instances, the artwork and music paired with it are separated by decades,” Boberg explained.
One significant example in Everything is Rhythm is the pairing of the painting And Then There Were Three, by Julian Stanczak, with Metamorphosis III, by composer Philip Glass. Stanczak’s cinematic and large scale painting complements the lush solo piano work by Glass, and will be performed by Lisa Moore during an in-gallery concert at 3pm on November 3, the last day of the exhibit.
Other artists in the exhibition include Hans Hoffman, Josef Albers, Willem de Kooning, and Victor Vasarely. For more information on the exhibit, as well as a series of in-gallery concerts, visit toledomuseum.org