The work of interdisciplinary artist Jason Moran (US, b. 1975) is grounded in musical composition, yet bridges the visual and performing arts through stagecraft. Moran is known for using personal experience to create dynamic musical compositions that challenge the conventional form of the medium. His experimental approach to art-making embraces the intersection of objects and sound, pushing beyond the traditional staged concert or sculpture and drawing to amplify ways that both are inherently theatrical. This exhibition, the artist’s first museum show, features the range of work Moran has explored, from his own sculptural pieces and collaborations with visual artists to performances.
In all aspects of his work, Moran’s creative process is informed by one of the essential tenets of jazz music: the “set,” in which musicians come together to engage in a collaborative process of improvisation, riffing off of one another to create the musical experience. The exhibition will highlight Moran’s mixed-media “set” installations STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1 and STAGED: Three Deuces (both 2015), sculptural vignettes based on storied music venues from past eras that were his acclaimed contributions to the 2015 Venice Biennale. The presentation includes the premiere of a new sculptural commission from this series that takes inspiration from the celebrated New York jazz venue Slugs’ Saloon, which was open from 1964 to the early 1970s. Also featured will be a selection of Moran’s most recent charcoal drawings and time-based media works from his long-standing collaborations, or sets, with visual artists including Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu, Lorna Simpson, and Kara Walker, each of whom also has an extensive relationship to the Walker.
In-gallery musical performances, activating the sculptures, will be orchestrated during the run of the show to complement the gallery presentation. On the occasion of his museum debut, the artist will also return to the McGuire Theater stage to premiere a new commissioned work, The Last Jazz Fest, his second performance to be commissioned by the Walker.
The exhibition complements the Walker’s long and meaningful history in the performing arts with Moran, which began in 2001 and includes a residency and five engagements to date.