BATON ROUGE – Swinging syncopation wafts through the LSU Museum of Art as artists Herman Leonard and Edward Pramuk capture the spirit of jazz in “An Eye on Jazz: Photographs by Herman Leonard” and “Edward Pramuk: Seeing Music,” a duo of exhibitions that will be on display on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge May 10-July 14. The exhibitions explore how music, musicians and musical ideas have influenced visual arts in the 20th century.
Jazz photographer Herman Leonard was captivated by the ambiance of smoke-laced jazz clubs, as was painter Edward Pramuk, a retired LSU professor and resident of Baton Rouge.
“I do not feel alone when I work,” Pramuk said. “I have the brilliant sounds of jazz men and women filling my studio.”
Shown alongside 36 of Leonard’s striking black-and-white photographs, more than two dozen of Pramuk’s musical-themed paintings, drawings and mixed-media collages will share their time in the spotlight at the LSU Museum of Art.
Legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington once said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Herman Leonard’s stunning portraits and Edward Pramuk’s paintings and collages indeed have that “swing.” Both artists use the visual arts as a tribute to the musical form, encouraging viewers to appreciate it through the visual complexity of musicians and their instruments. Visitors can experience the smoky clubs of urban nightlife and immerse themselves in rhythmic visual melodies as they step into the galleries of the LSU Museum of Art.
The artwork in “Edward Pramuk: Seeing Music” captures the remarkable and often emotional process of music-making. With a focus on improvisation, or what renowned bassist Charles Mingus referred to in jazz as “spontaneous composition,” Pramuk’s paintings, drawings, and collages from 1982-2013 are as spontaneous and emotionally charged as the musical genre he so enjoys. His lifelong love of the musical genre is revealed in his series dedicated to the state’s great jazz musicians, “Louisiana Jazz Legacies,” which offer glimpses into the personalities of the musicians.
“An Eye on Jazz: Photographs by Herman Leonard” features 36 black-and-white masterworks from the collection of A Gallery for Fine Photography, located in New Orleans. Renowned photographer Herman Leonard immersed himself in the world of jazz from 1948 to 2001, acquainting himself with musical legends Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker and Billie Holiday, among others.
“Through innovative back lighting techniques, Leonard illuminates the spirit of the musicians,” said LSU Museum of Art Executive Director Jordana Pomeroy.
Before Leonard, musicians went to photographers’ studios to sit for portraits, but Leonard’s lighting techniques allowed the performers to remain in their element and not lose the atmosphere or ambiance of the smoky clubs.
“Leonard’s personal relationships with his subjects resulted in meaningful portraits of the sitters,” Pomeroy said.
In addition to their shared love for jazz, Leonard and Pramuk have had some remarkable connections in the past. Both went to college in Ohio, both had close personal relationships with Wynton Marsalis and both moved to the South, immersing themselves in the rich musical culture in Louisiana. The two artists ran in the same artistic circles, met and even discussed the possibility of doing a show together in the future. Although Leonard is deceased, this aspiring show is now coming to fruition at the LSU Museum of Art. “An Eye on Jazz: Photographs by Herman Leonard” and “Edward Pramuk: Seeing Music” celebrate the artists’ love of jazz and aim to promote Louisiana’s long-standing musical history as the cradle of jazz and blues.
In connection with the exhibitions, Baton Rouge photographer David Humphreys has produced a 16” x 20” limited edition, signed, fine art print of Edward Pramuk’s “Bat’s Blues (for Alvin Batiste).” This print is available for sale through the LSU Museum of Art Store. To order, please call 225-389-7210 or visit www.lsumoa.com. This project was underwritten by Louisiana Machinery Co.
The LSU Museum of Art will also present a series of exciting educational programs including lectures, gallery talks, art making workshops and interactive school tours for all ages, designed to further explore the exhibition. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact Lucy Perera, LSU Museum of Art coordinator of school and community programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 225-389-7207.
Through the generous support of Gail O’Quin and Charles E. Schwing, the Museum will debut iPad guides featuring music, videos and additional information related to the exhibitions. These iPads are available at the admission desk on the fifth floor.
General admission to the LSU Museum of Art is $5 each for adults and children age 13 and over. Admission is free to university faculty, staff, and students with ID, children age 12 and under, and museum members. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visitwww.lsumoa.com or call 225-389-7200.