"John Dowell Jr., is a printmaker who has been deeply influenced by music and jazz in particular. Dowell over the years has done a suite of prints in which musical notations and color have been important elements. These prints can be actual music scores and have been performed by Dowell's group, Visual Music Ensemble. The artist works to create a visual environment to break up the white space of the paper. Altered Chorus consists of three prints in an elongated format that were commissioned by the workshop to honor three influential African American artists in 1983. The rhythmic delicacy of his translucent marks floating across the surface of the print exudes confidence and sureness by its maker to celebrate the creative act."
- Source: Allan L. Edmunds, printer/ collaborator of several prints in the series.
The John E. Dowell, Jr Music Series is one of set of screen prints from the 1970s and hand lithographs and offset lithographs from the early 1980s that are simultaneously works of visual art and in several instances used as compositions or musical scores for the Visual Music Ensemble (1975–1983) composed by Philadelphia-based, multimedia artist and musician John E. Dowell, Jr.
In the early 1980s, Dowell, in an effort to capture more detail and nuance, which was difficult to achieve in screen printing and hand lithography, explored the use of commercial printing-presses. The artists worked with Brandywine printers on one-two color offset presses to create and present editions of prints rich with the distinctive colors and tones of his watercolors. His compositions moved away from controlled, calligraphy-like drawing to open, expressive marks of graded color values that floated on large expanses of white and simulated the wash effects of water color painting.
Also, during this period, Dowell collaborated with local jazz musicians to create audio expressions of his visual prints and watercolors. For example, long marks became sustained sounds; colors transformed into intense and varying tonalities; and empty spaces into a quiet moment. This process of image inspiring music required a great deal of rehearsal, analysis, and discussion that often focused on a core, recurring question: what is the sound of a color? While a collaboration, Dowell made that final call.
After many exploratory sessions, the resulting image-inspired musical compositions were recorded and incorporated into concert programs performed at venues including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Annenberg Center and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others.
From the Artist:
[The purpose for my art is] To produce the stimulus for the viewer to discover themselves.
Once the son of an English professor at school asked what my work was like. I told him they were marks and small linear forms jumping, moving, and dancing in space...
Some are very immediate and spontaneous, some are controlled, but all marks are ordered in some sort of visual environment. In my drawings and watercolors the marks superimpose another service on top of a white or black ground. For example, I may cluster 150 marks within a 10 inch square area to form a pattern or texture, which may have tremendous amount of movement within a particular area. In my paintings, I use marks to clarify the surrounding white space and try to create an emotional impact through the stress and pull on the mark.
Philadelphia printmaker, photographer, and painter John E. Dowell, Jr., earned a BFA in printmaking and ceramics from Temple University, Philadelphia; studied advanced lithography with Garo Antreasian at Herron School of Art and Design, Indianapol...Read More ⟶