Visual Jazz, Seen and Heard: Paintings by Chor Boogie

Chor Boogie’s latest exhibition, “Visual Jazz”, dots the walls of Monarch Arredon Gallery in a straight line with over 20 brightly colored canvases, depicting jazz musicians and instruments along with their respective musical auras.

Against white walls, the pieces pop with color and blend into one another in a wash of jewel tones. Inside the bounds of the canvases, many of the subjects–musical instruments and performers of “visual jazz”–also stand against pale backdrops, accented by soft swirls of sheer color. The many contrasts–of sharp edges and smooth blending, of crisp, consistent patterns and realistic instruments against fuzzy swirls and swoops of color–evoke the tension of rigid technique and loose improvisation that characterizes jazz. In such pieces as “I’m Going In” and “The Bone Keeper”, Boogie uses sprays of sheer neons in lines and swirls to depict the musical aura surrounding the musician’s hands and heads, syncing them up as a musical outfit. A group of other subjects blend in with their surroundings, as in “Big Red” and “Purple Man”, and come together to form an ambient club band. Boogie gives his characters personality in the selectivity with which he chooses to depict their features–each differently interpreted rather than sticking to a pattern of elimination. “Slim”’s sharp face is a patchwork of segmented colors while “Mr. Money”’s profile is nearly all shadowed by his hat.

With their stylistic grouping into 2- and 3-piece bands, the musicians seem at home in their environments, just as they would in the corner of a dimly lit club. In these pieces, Boogie masterfully captures a sense of smoky ambiance, an air of coolness so characteristic of jazz musicians, perfectly synced as an ensemble of individuals. According to an attendee of Saturday’s opening, one can almost “just hear the riff of a sax or the crash of a high-hat” when looking at the paintings. One attendee went so far as to say Boogie “harnessed the tunes and infused them directly into the art” itself.

But while he creates a clear cast of characters with distinct personalities and getups, some of the pieces in this show capture this sensation more tangibly than others. The pieces depicting instruments, such as “Oboe” and “The Bones”, all match a specific template–superimposed hyperrealistic images of instruments and neon stripes atop swirling sprays of muted color and a light backdrop. The result is a spread indicating more generally an idea of “jazz” as a concept, broken down into its musical components. Each piece features a similar compositional arrangement, the instruments spewing spurts of fuzzy spray paint lines to indicate “music” coming out of them. All seven of these pieces evoke a similar visual sensation and in so doing, their individuality becomes secondary. If the exhibition strives to capture the essence of jazz as a human experience, these pieces grasp it more as an abstract concept. On the other hand, the seven instrument works have a certain charm to them–they would look right at home in a music producer’s office, or above an upright piano in someone’s home. While perhaps less provocative than some of the others, these pieces certainly still capture the essential character of jazz.

As he transitions from his usual gigantic scale to the smaller polished space of a gallery, Chor Boogie is trying something different with “Visual Jazz”. Unlike his other grand-scale pieces, this work is clearly more suited to a gallery space and a fine art setting in that it includes discrete smaller pieces, lots of white space, a clear color scheme and subject matter.  “Visual Jazz” manages to capture the tension of rigidity and fluidity that runs like a live wire underneath the jazz experience, as well as the unique meshing of style and sensibility that occurs when musicians form an ensemble. In naming this show “Visual Jazz” Boogie accurately describes the scope captured by his work–a single moment of jazz, captured as though frozen in time.