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Ralston Crawford and Jazz Exhibition Explores the Influence of New Orleans on the Artist's Post-World War II Photographs, Prints, Paintings, Drawings, and Films

Media Contact:

Grace Wilson

New Orleans Museum of Art  

Director of Communications

504.658.4106

gwilson@noma.org 

New Orleans, LA - Ralston Crawford and Jazz explores the profound impact of New Orleans' culture, and in particular the city's jazz scene, on artist Ralston Crawford's artistic output in the years after World War II-a significant but lesser known body of work. On view at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) from June 22-October 14, 2012, Ralston Crawford and Jazz explores the range of Crawford's work with a special focus on his photography.
 
Featuring over 150 works, including photographs, prints, paintings, drawings, and films-many of which had never been exhibited-the exhibition illuminates Crawford's strong personal connection to the city of New Orleans and the way musical and visual aesthetics intersect in the artist's work.
 
"So much of what New Orleans is about-music, visual arts, architecture, performance-come together in the work that Ralston Crawford created here," said Susan Taylor, NOMA Director. "We are honored to present Crawford's personal interpretation of our city through his vibrant, visual art."
 
Ralston Crawford and Jazz examines how the artist translated elements from jazz-such as syncopation, polyphony, and improvisation -into his visual work. As syncopation breaks up the rhythmic progression of a song, Crawford introduced "syncopated" forms to disrupt the overall compositions of his paintings. His photographs, lithographs, paintings, and films of the city's musicians, cemeteries, weathered buildings, signage, street scenes, and boats at dock capture the essence of the New Orleans atmosphere.
 
"New Orleans jazz music profoundly altered Ralston Crawford's creative process and output. His photographs and paintings took on the punchy and rhythmic quality of the music his subjects played," said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at NOMA. "While his early paintings relied heavily on a one-point perspective, the works he created in New Orleans seemingly exploded off the canvas, as though the inherent freedom of jazz inspired him to abandon the earlier rules and create increasingly abstract works."
 
Crawford considered his photographs both discrete works of art and launching points for other works. Throughout the exhibition, where a photograph is related to works across other media, the associated works are often displayed together-juxtapositions that highlight Crawford's ability to exploit the unique properties of each medium and create a call and response structure frequently used in jazz performances.
 
Highlights from the exhibition, include:

  • Vintage photographs of iconic New Orleans establishments from the '50s and '60s, including  Chris Owen's Bourbon Street Club, Dew Drop Inn, Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and Eureka Brass Band, that exemplify Crawford's ability to capture the spirit and energy of a place through graphic, dynamic images made with the camera.
  • A set of original proof prints for the New Orleans: The Living Legends record series, which featured Crawford's images on the covers. Photographs that have become synonymous with New Orleans and jazz culture.
  • Five short silent films that feature evocative shots of torn signs, neon advertisements, and Mississippi River scenes that demonstrate how Crawford's unique eye gravitated to variations in form, texture and tone and found abstraction in the real world. 
  • Candid portraits of beloved jazz musicians from the '50s and '60s, including Billie and Dede Pierce, "Wooden" Joe Nicholas, Bill Matthews, Oscar "Papa" Celestin, Paul Barbarin, John Casimir, and George Vital "Papa Jack" Lane, that emphasize the personal relationships Crawford developed with people of New Orleans and his desire to document what he felt was a particular monumental moment in jazz culture.
  • A selection of Crawford's photographs from the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University that expands upon the main exhibition, illustrating Crawford's engagement with all facets of the city of New Orleans. 

The exhibition was organized and exhibited by the Sheldon Art Galleries, in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Opening Events
Friday, June 22
7pm:  Panel discussion "Ralston Crawford in New Orleans"with Sheldon Art Galleries curator Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, Director of Museum Programs at the Historic New Orleans Collection John Lawrence and NOMA curator Russell Lord 8pm:  Jazz Informance with Dr. Michael White
 
About Ralston Crawford
Ralston Crawford (1906-1978) is predominantly known for his abstract representations of urban life and industry, and his early work is frequently associated with Precisionist artists such as Charles Sheeler and Stuart Davis. Lesser known is the significant body of work he produced after 1949, which was inspired by his frequent visits to and time teaching in New Orleans. In 1985, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented a major retrospective on Crawford's work, and his pieces are currently housed in the permanent collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and National Gallery of American Art, among numerous others. Crawford is buried in New Orleans St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.
 
NOMA Admission
Wednesdays are FREE for all museum visitors. Adults, $10; Seniors (65 and up) and Students, $8; Children 7-17, $6; Children 6 and under, free. Free Wednesdays are made possible through the generosity of The Helis Foundation.
 
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses over 35,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing temporary exhibitions, are on view in the Museum's 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by 62 artists, including several of the 20th century's master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. except for Fridays when it's open until 8:45 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org.