Anthony Meier Fine Arts is pleased to present a solo exhibition of never-before-seen work by jazz musician and painter Claude Lawrence. On view from 24 May – 24 June 2022, the exhibition showcases his masterful array of paintings that range from fully abstract to subtly figurative. These works created over the past seven years are the artist’s first presentation with a major commercial gallery and mark his debut on the West Coast.
Lawrence grew up in Chicago and attended an arts and music school alongside composer Anthony Braxton and drummer Jack DeJohnette. In the mid 1960s he moved to New York and toured the United States as a saxophonist for the next 20 years. During his time in New York, Lawrence became a fixture of the Downtown Loft Jazz scene and was enmeshed in a milieu of the most notable artists and musicians of the day - he took lessons with Ornette Colman, encountered Frank Bowling and Edvins Strautmanis at Peter Bradley's Firehouse on Lafayette Street and forged longtime friendships with Jack Whitten and Joe Overstreet.
These relationships informed Lawrence’s perspective not only on contemporary art and music but on the potential political resonances of these creative modes of expression. He recalls that when discussing Norman Lewis with Jack Whitten, the latter observed how significant it was for an African-American artist to gain recognition for anything other than figurative work, especially since figuration was more likely to be regarded as political than abstraction. Even though Lawrence’s compositions have almost always obviated referential imagery, he found that his work could be mobilized to enact meaningful social change.
This crossover between jazz and abstraction can also be seen in Lawrence’s energized compositions of bold colors and impassioned brushstrokes. Art historian Andrianna Campbell attests to the depth of influence that Lawrence’s musical career had on his painting and observed that his work often operates “as a fusion of improvisation and subject matter governed by memory akin to the way that a jazz musician follows the established chord progressions and recycles it to render it continually new.”