- College of Fine Arts
The University of New Mexico Art Museum presents "To Form from Air: Music and the Art of Raymond Jonson," Sept. 10-Dec. 19. The opening reception is on Friday, Sept. 10, 5-7 p.m. Rhythm and powerful emotional effects of form, line and color are the pervasive elements of this exhibition, conceived as a visual analogy to the symphonies of Sergei Prokofiev and the experiments of New York's Ultra-Modern composers in the 1920s.
Jonson's concepts of musical form as a guide to abstract painting began in the 1910s with the influence of art writers including Arthur Wesley Dow and Clive Bell. He developed the concepts in his work as set designer, lighting technician and actor with the Chicago Little Theatre, 1913-17. His passion for music as visual inspiration took flight in a 1918 Chicago Symphony performance of Prokifiev's "Piano Concerto Number One," which Jonson found visually "intense, radical… ranging from the lowest to the highest in color."
Reading Wassily Kandinsky's seminal treatise, "Concerning the Spiritual in Art," confirmed for Jonson the close relationship of color, line and form to musical expressions. Jonson witnessed this relationship during a summer sketching trip to Santa Fe in 1922, where for the first time he was immersed in the flowing rhythms and rich colors of the New Mexico landscape. These experiences led to the "Earth Rhythms" paintings, 1923-27. Other works followed with more specific musical references, including "Jazz-A Construction" (1926), "Portrait of May van Dyke" (1929), and a loan to the UNM Art Museum never before exhibited in Albuquerque, "Composition Ten – Music" (1929).
Beginning in 1935, Jonson devoted his longest-running series, the "Chromatic Contrasts," to the idea of musical dissonance. The series is a 30-year affair with atonality expressed in color, line and form intended to carry the emotional weight of contrasting sounds. Much of the inspiration for this series came from the artist's contact with French-American Ultra-Modern composer and philosopher Dane Rudhyar, who practiced and wrote extensively on musical and social theories of dissonance.
An illustrated, hard-bound catalog accompanies the exhibition, with essays by curator Robert Ware on the "Chromatic Contrasts" and by independent scholar MaLin Wilson-Powell on Jonson's "Earth Rhythms."
The UNM Art Museum is in the Center for the Arts. Paid parking is available in the Cornell Parking Structure. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
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