The last time I saw Romare Bearden’s work was in a major retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art where I saw many works translating the everyday vernacular of the American black. The works, most specifically those that revealed his tendency to look to music for inspiration, such as his “Of the Blues” series in 1974 and “J Mood” from 1985, have an affinity to my own fascination with music and sound as filtered through not only “the black experience,” as expected, but also through my own (unexpected) personal experience.
Many summer nights in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, a community with a large Jamaican population, I hear sound systems playing loud music in the street, an experience which is aurally and visually not too far from the inspiration for Beardens’ large mural The Block (1971). Exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1971, it was groundbreaking for its innovative use of rich urban folklore and the picturesque. Its audio component consisted of a soundtrack, a mix of news broadcasts, street noise and gospel music, and is the reference point for my drawing/sound recording, Audio Montage, Version One—obviously a work of art on paper and not-so-obviously associated with both web-based art and sound art. This new work reflects my continued interest in the interstices of aesthetic disciplines and black subjectivity, and an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, both material (art) and immaterial (experience).