Yusef LateefNovember 8–December 20, 2014 320 West 13th Street
Curated by Alhena Katsof
White Columns is proud to present the first New York exhibition of drawings by the master musician, composer and artist Dr. Yusef Lateef (1920 – 2013). The exhibition has been organized by curator Alhena Katsof. Throughout his lifetime, Dr. Lateef was immersed in his creation of ‘autophysiopsychic music.’ He described this as music that comes from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self or ‘from the heart’. As part of this creative continuum, Dr. Lateef made over 100 drawings, as well as innovative graphic notations and scores in which numbers and shapes organize complex interval-based music. This exhibition at White Columns includes examples of these notations alongside a selection of drawings created with watercolor, pen, ink, graphite and glitter.
Working at home, Dr. Lateef drew in the same room where he composed at his piano for over forty years, surrounded by instruments he collected from across the globe. A virtuosic wind musician and vocalist, Dr. Lateef played the tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto. He activated some of this technique in his works on paper by pouring small puddles of ink onto the page and then blowing through a straw to spread the liquid. These fanning pools are interwoven with various marks, lines, squiggles, scratches and concentric circles. At times, the shapes resemble emerging trees, candelabra, flowers and clouds. In other instances, ameba-like clusters boom like the cosmos across the page.
Dr. Lateef’s drawing practice was informed by his lifelong immersion in methods of free playing wherein the ‘feeling tone’ of a singular gesture inspires the next. This call and response unfolds one mark at a time, from first to the last, in a process that could take one or many days before a drawing reached completion. As a devout Muslim, his drawings were frequently embedded with references to Allah – The One worthy of worship. This infused his work as an outspoken philosopher, dedicated educator, playwright and science fiction novelist, for whom creativity was a force that exists in myriad forms.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from an album, co-released with composer and percussionist Adam Rudolph, with new compositions and recordings by Dr. Lateef. The phrase invokes an essence of his seven-decades long meditation on sonic dimensions and their broader social significances, which he practiced across macro and micro planes, moving always and ever, Towards the Unknown.
White Columns would like to thank Alhena Katsof for introducing us to Yusef Lateef’s extraordinary drawings.
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