(Photo: Photo provided/Tom Shafer)

(Photo: Photo provided/Tom Shafer)

Review: Paintings alive with the sound of jazz

Journal & Courier, February 19, 2015

When American jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker said, “Hear with your eyes and see with your ears,” he was sending out a message that was surely picked up by Robert Peppers.

Peppers, previously assistant director of Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center and currently professor of drawing and painting at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, has created a body of free-standing and well-presented sculptural paintings based on his visual reactions to jazz.

A collection of this textured and colorful work is now on display in the McDonald Gallery at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette.

Visual artists have any number of sources of inspiration for their artwork: Landscape painters react to nature. Still life artists are fascinated by the various shape and size relationships of every day objects. Abstract painters explore color and texture that in many cases have no bearing on their visual environment.

Peppers takes inspiration from the jazz that he loves. He listens to the music and begins to make marks on paper. As the music flows over him, he continues to sketch and develop shapes, designs and color considerations.

The artist’s choice of materials — glass, black beauty sand, wood and acrylics — when combined, create an incredible amount of color and texture. The colored glass begins to sparkle and resemble a vividly animated surface as one walks toward each piece.

The most glowing work, “All Blues in Reverse Black and White,” visually pops off the gallery wall. Unlike several other pieces that are rather muted and quiet in their presentation, this piece is nearly electric in its color relationships. The artist has used musical notes to lead our eyes through the black and white composition, and brilliant blues as explosive accents. The piece is simply alive with the rhythmic sounds of jazz.

As striking as these large glass and sand works are, I found the miniature square constructions titled “Yusef’s Meditations: The Box Set of 16 Yantras” to be strange and mystical in their tightly packed energetic and imaginative compositions.

The lengthy horizontal grouping of these glass-surfaced, amulet-like constructions are striking to say the least, but as one gets physically closer to each small piece, their visual complexity increases tenfold.

The Art Museum again has filled all of its galleries with outstanding works of art that are funny, thoughtful, towering, and colorful, as well as family-friendly. Parents, bring your children and let them enjoy this visually rich, art-filled environment.

Shafer provides insight about art exhibits in Greater Lafayette. Email him at orieshafer@hotmail.com.


If you go

What: “Jazz Templates in Silhouette: Paintings by Robert Peppers”

Where: McDonald Gallery, Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, 102 S. 10th St.

Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily; show runs through March 1