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Moran installation Slugs Saloon
Moran installation Slugs Saloon

Jason Moran, Slugs’ Saloon, 2018, mixed media and sound. Courtesy: © Jason Moran and Luhring Augustine, New York; photograph: Farzad Owrang

Over the past century, African American scholars and theorists – from W.E.B. Du Bois to Fred Moten – have posited music, and especially its performance, as integral to Black Atlantic life. Some have pointed to forms such as blues, jazz and hip-hop as not only the subject matter or catalyst for much diaspora art, but as a basis for critique that ruptures formal boundaries and ushers in new ‘breaks’ and resonances. While this seems plainly true, it is rare that such connections are translated to the white cube without losing something along the way.

Not so for Jason Moran’s eponymous retrospective, which Whitney curator Adrienne Edwards originated in 2018 at the Walker Art Center. Edwards had already included Moran’s work to great effect in her landmark exhibition ‘Blackness in Abstraction’ (2016), and at the 2017 Performa Biennial, where he shared the stage with Julie Mehretu. This exhibition, limited in scope and thoughtfully hung, communicates the broad sweep of Moran’s sustained engagements as a pianist, composer, editor, visual artist and Artistic Director of Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington. It is an elegant model for how performance can be curated.

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