Summer/Fall 2002

Faculty Gallery:
"Bass Lines"

Greg Huebner
Professor of Art & Chair of Art Department
Wabash College

I’ve always loved jazz, even as a kid. Three years ago I started taking jazz bass lessons and last year I joined the College Jazz Improv combo. That allowed me a greater understanding of the structure and theory behind the music. In doing so, I kept seeing the striking parallels between jazz composition and abstract painting.

In a jazz composition there is a particular chord structure that a soloist might stay within or use as a springboard to further harmonic exploration. The rhythm section is playing off against that soloist, and the bass is laying down a bass line for all of it. The play between the instruments is improvised.

And when I work on a canvas, if I hit a bold yellow up here, that dictates almost intuitively a response elsewhere on the canvas.

So this call-and-response, improvised give-and-take within a chord-like structure is so much the way I paint that I started listening to jazz compositions to see what my response would be.

Throughout these pieces, the black line that swings through is the bass line of the piece. Sometimes it’s just under the surface, sometimes it’s on top and strong, and then there’s all this improvisation around the bass lines that bring a visual quality similar to the sonic quality of the composition.

I make a loop of each one of these songs and play it continuously while I am painting. What that music is doing drives what I compose on the canvas.

Trying to interpret another artist’s work in a different medium has made me more critical of my own. It causes me to question my sense of form and color—is my sense of color as good as, say, that horn is playing in that tune? It’s been fun to hold up another art to my own and notice the differences and similarities.

Maybe the most affirming moment from the exhibit of these pieces in Indianapolis over the summer came when a musician who teaches jazz theory at IUPUI [Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis] saw the paintings and asked to photograph them and use the images in his class.

To have a musician, a theorist, see my show and say, “that’s a great visual of what I’m trying to get my students to listen to,” was very rewarding.

I said, “Take all the photos you want!”


"Bass Lines" appeared at the following galleries:

Eric Dean Gallery, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Ind.
September- October 2002

Ruschman Gallery, Indianapolis, Ind.
June - July 2002




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