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Jazz Cubano #27: Arturo and Elio, Thinking Out Loud Discover the best available selection of work on paper by the artist Ellen PriestPaper Kooness
10300 EUR

Jazz Cubano #27: Arturo and Elio, Thinking Out Loud


Single piece Signed Dated Titled



81.2 x 81.2 cm
31.97 x 32 in






Drawings & Works on Paper


The movement and space in Afro-Cuban jazz has long fascinated Ellen Priest, especially the percussion. In her 2012-16 Jazz Cubano Series she took those complex rhythms and melodies apart to reconstruct them visually.
She began work in 2012 with the music of Cuban percussionist Arturo Stable and Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca using their duo recording Dos Y Mas.  
In order to find a visual translation she had to break the music down into its simplest components – literally, single percussion sounds.  Those fueled a series of fifty brush studies.  Next she transferred pairs of them one over another and painted into them – the “Percussion Drawings.”  Only after many months she was comfortable beginning the larger brush studies and layered paintings.
Making their work a painting/jazz conversation, Arturo and Elio improvised from Ellen's brush studies in April 2013.  She composed new pieces from music informally recorded in that session – layered, collaged paintings titled, Jazz Cubano # 20-17: Arturo and Elio, Thinking Out Loud.
The second phase of Jazz Cubano is based on a piece from Stefon Harris’, David Sanchez’ and Christian Scott’s Ninety Miles Project.  “Brown Belle Blues” was composed by vibraphonist Stefon Harris.  The overlays of rhythms caught Ellen's imagination instantly when she heard them perform it live at a jazz festival in the summer of 2011.

1951 , United States

Ellen Priest is an American abstract artist who is inspired by music and most notably by jazz. She lives and works near Philadelphia.


Priest received her Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School in 1977 with a dual qualification in Christianity and the Visual Arts. As an artist, she is largely self-taught.


Ellen Priest's jazz-based abstractions balance directly on the border between painting and sculpture – vibrantly colored spatial illusions when reading from a distance and 3-D relief constructions of layered, collaged paper when seen up close.


Jazz has been her subject matter since 1990. Drawing is always central to her process, as well as standing on its own.
The artist's inspiration comes from surprisingly diverse sources:
• Life-long visual art influences include Cezanne's late watercolors, Matisse's color and compositional structure, and Abstract Expressionism, especially the paintings of Willem De Kooning and Joan Mitchell.
• The rhythmic and harmonic structures in jazz and related African and Latin American music.
• Her athletic pursuits, since her paintings are really about movement. Priest's favorite sports are "balance sports," where motion depends on weight and balance thrown off-centre, often in response to terrain, like skiing.

Notable distinctions

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation has twice awarded Priest major grants to support her innovation.

Relevant quote

In July 2010, art critic Victoria Donohoe wrote about Priest?s work in two Wilmington exhibitions for The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Priest deliberately blurs the boundary between painting and jazz in her Venezuelan Suite painted collages. These use form as a language of music... Seeing jazz as full of joy and energy, able to transform sadness, Priest uses it successfully here to create materialized movement in actual worlds of coloured space.”

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