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Rhythm & Improvisation: John T. Scott & his legacy exhibited at Louisiana Art & Science Museum
Dancing at the Crossroads.

BATON ROUGE, LA.- The Louisiana Art & Science Museum invites you to view the awe-inspiring exhibition, Rhythm & Improvisation: John T. Scott & His Legacy.

New Orleans native and longtime Xavier University professor, John T. Scott, is celebrated as one of America’s most innovative artists. His work – often described as “optical jazz” or “visual blues” – was shaped in part by African, Caribbean, and New Orleans musical traditions.

Scott mentored many artists in New Orleans and elsewhere, among them Ron Bechet, Jeffrey Cook, Frank Hayden, Martin Payton, and Clifton Webb. The selection of Scott’s work is accompanied by artist quotes and a compilation of his favorite musical scores. Taken as a whole, the exhibition demonstrates Scott’s passion for musical traditions, and provides a glimpse into his impressive legacy that lives on in the work of his colleagues and former students, whose art is also on view as part of the exhibition.

Scott used the term “jazz thinking” to describe his mindset when creating art; finding inspiration in the improvisatory style of jazz musicians – the way they intuitively select notes that individually do not make sense but played together constitute a unique and harmonious whole. This type of thinking allowed Scott to use space and form to create rhythm and movement. He moved from one artistic media to another, creating bold, colorful artworks that explored themes such as the “diddlie-bow” string instruments from West African culture, the rhythm and movement of early 19th century slave dances in New Orleans’ Congo Square, local traditions such as jazz funerals, second-line parades, and Louis Armstrong’s legacy.

John T. Scott was raised in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and later attended Xavier University. Upon completion of graduate studies at Michigan State University in 1965, he joined Xavier’s faculty. A milestone in his career came in 1983, when Scott received a grant to study under the internationally acclaimed kinetic sculptor George Rickey, leading to the production of a number of public commissions and other kinetic works. Among his many honors was the prestigious “Genius Grant,” awarded in 1992 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his creativity as one of America’s most innovative artists. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad. Forced to evacuate due to Hurricane Katrina, Scott died in Houston in 2007.

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