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Blues for Smoke

Feb 7–Apr 28, 2013

Mark Morrisroe (1959–1989), Untitled, c. 1981. Gum bichromate print, 24 15/16 × 20 7/8 in. (63.3 × 53 cm). The Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringier Collection) at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. © The Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringier Collection) at Fotomuseum Winterthur
Beauford Delaney (1901–1979), Portrait of a Young Musician, n.d. Acrylic on canvas, 51 × 38 in. (129.54 × 96.52 cm). Studio Museum in Harlem, Gift of Ms. Ogust Delaney Stewart, Knoxville, Tennessee. © Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

Blues for Smoke is an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores a wide range of contemporary art through the lens of the blues and blues aesthetics. Turning to the blues not simply as a musical category but as a field of artistic sensibilities and cultural idioms, the exhibition features works by over forty artists from the 1950s to the present, as well as materials culled from music and popular entertainment.

The exhibition’s title is drawn from a 1960 solo album by virtuoso jazz pianist Jaki Byard in which improvisation on blues form becomes a basis for avant-garde exploration. The title suggests that the expanded poetics of the blues is pervasive—but also diffuse and difficult to pin down. By presenting an uncommon heterogeneity of subject matter, art historical contexts, formal and conceptual inclinations, genres and disciplines, Blues for Smoke holds artists and art worlds together that are often kept apart, within and across lines of race, generation, and canon. 

A series of performances, events, screenings, and readings will accompany the exhibition.

Blues for Smoke is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition is curated by Bennett Simpson. At the Whitney Museum, the installation is overseen by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator.

Media partner

Thomas Bradshaw: Lecture on the Blues
Blues for Smoke Performance Series
4 PM
Thomas Bradshaw: Lecture on the Blues
Blues for Smoke Performance Series
1:30 PM
 
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Garden of Music, 1960. Oil on canvas 79 1/2 x 143 in. (201.93 x 363.22 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
 
Free Daily Tours
12:30 PM
Thomas Bradshaw: Lecture on the Blues
Blues for Smoke Performance Series
4 PM
 
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Garden of Music, 1960. Oil on canvas 79 1/2 x 143 in. (201.93 x 363.22 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
 
Free Daily Tours
2 PM
Thomas Bradshaw: Lecture on the Blues
Blues for Smoke Performance Series
1:30 PM
Member Events: All members
9–11 AM
 
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Garden of Music, 1960. Oil on canvas 79 1/2 x 143 in. (201.93 x 363.22 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
 
Free Daily Tours
7:30 PM
Blues for Smoke: Annette Peacock
Blues for Smoke Performance Series
7 PM
 
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Garden of Music, 1960. Oil on canvas 79 1/2 x 143 in. (201.93 x 363.22 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
 
Free Daily Tours
2:30 PM
 
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Garden of Music, 1960. Oil on canvas 79 1/2 x 143 in. (201.93 x 363.22 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
 
Free Daily Tours
1:30 PM
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Blues For Smoke

By Bennett Simpson

This catalogue is no longer available at the Museum shop.

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In the News

"As a musical category blues is hard to pin down, and this show makes the job harder, which seems to be its point. It’s saying: Blues isn’t a thing; it’s a set of feelings, a state of mind, maybe a state of grace."
The New York Times

"There is such a bombardment of absolutely stunning paintings, installations, sculpture and visual presentations that it is difficult to tear yourself away until the moment is fully digested."
Amsterdam News

"Drawing together various art forms (video, sculpture, painting, and live performance) across the lines of race, multiple generations and interdisciplinary canons, Blues for Smoke places the idioms of blues, and other distinctly African-American traditions, at the center of the American tableau of creativity."
The Grio