Stand in the center of the gallery and make a slow rotation.

Can you feel the jazz vibe resonating from Romare Bearden's serigraphs? That was Michael Butler's hope when he loaned his collection of Bearden works to the Southern University Museum of Art.

The show runs through April 30 and features 18 serigraphs covering three of the artist's series: "Jazz," "Prevalence of Ritual" and "Odysseus."

Bearden has been described as an abstract expressionist, a neo-expressionist, a modern artist and even a social realist.

Curator Randell Henry believes this is the first solo show for Bearden in Baton Rouge.

"I told Michael that it would be a coup if we could bring the Bearden prints to Southern," Henry said. "Romare Bearden was a legend, and this is an opportunity for our students to see his artwork, as well as the Baton Rouge community."

Bearden was born in 1911 in North Carolina and grew up in New York and Pittsburgh. He graduated from New York University in 1935 and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1950.

In addition to being an artist, he co-wrote the jazz standard "Sea Breeze," recorded by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie.

Bearden, who died in 1988, worked in paint, collage and prints, producing pieces that dealt with religious and mythical subjects and the black experiences.

Jazz musicians, in turn, were inspired by his work, and Bearden designed some of their album covers. Fifteen years after Bearden's death, New Orleans jazzman Branford Marsalis paid tribute to the artist in his 2003 album, "Romare Bearden Revealed," recorded in celebration of a retrospective exhibit of Bearden's art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

"The closest I came to meeting Romare Bearden was meeting his friend and caretaker Russell Goings, who was a professional football player and founder of the Studio Museum in Harlem," Butler said. "I liked the color and detail of Bearden's work, his use of detail and the things he uses to pull it all together."

Butler was already collecting art before he delved into Bearden's work. Sharing the prints with Southern seemed only natural.

Butler was born in Baton Rouge, grew up in Natchitoches, graduated Amherst College and Tulane University Medical School, then trained as a surgeon in New York before landing a job at a hospital in Houma.


Romare Bearden exhibit

WHERE: Southern University Museum of Art, Martin L. Harvey Hall, Southern campus

HOURS: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Closed on weekends.

INFORMATION: (225) 771-4513

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.

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