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Romare Bearden: Themes & Variations

The Apprenticeship of Jelly Roll Morton, 1971
Romare Bearden
Thank You... For F.U.M.L. (Funking Up My Life) (detail), 1978
Romare Bearden's Piano Lesson (detail), 1983

Riffs, vamps, thematic variations and call and response are endemic to blues and jazz. Those devices also served as signature elements in the work of legendary visual artist Romare Bearden. Through his inventive use of color shading, texture, rhythm and figurative depictions of musicians, Bearden’s evocative works, especially his legendary collages, almost became synonymous with jazz. He would often revisit pieces, much like Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk would go back and retool certain compositions. Throughout his career, Bearden composed series of variations such as “Of the Blues,” “Odysseus” and “Conjur.” All of these series and so much more come into play at Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art’s exhibit The Art of Romare Bearden.

“Bearden always talked about jazz in regards of making a move and then responding to that particular move and then recalling it later in a painting or later in his career,” says Ruth Fine, curator of the exhibition. The Art of Romare

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