13 April, 2021Print
Promises: Through Congress
A Collaboration Between Julie Mehretu And Sam Shepherd Featuring Mehretu’s Painting Congress (2003) And Promises - The New Album By Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra
A film by Trevor Tweeten, Premiering April 24 In Partnership With The Broad And Whitney Museum of American Art
Trevor Tweeten, still from Promises: Through Congress. Video, color, sound, 46 min. With the music Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. Congress, 2003, ink and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 inches (182.88 x 243.84 cm), The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles. ©Julie Mehretu
Promises: Through Congress is a new film that explores visual artist Julie Mehretu’s painting Congress (2003) and Promises (Luaka Bop, 2021), the new album by electronic composer and musician Floating Points, jazz titan Pharoah Sanders and featuring the London Symphony Orchestra. Promises is one of the best reviewed albums of the year, earning a 9.0 Best New Music designation from Pitchfork, a NY Times Critics Pick, 5 out of 5 stars from The Guardian and The Times UK, and described by the New Yorker as “a remarkably intimate experience.” The project also debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart and Number 6 in the UK album chart. The Broad in Los Angeles and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City will co-host the film’s virtual premiere on April 24 at 3pm EST/12pm PST/8pm GMT for a special, one time showing, and with an introduction by Mehretu. For more information and to RSVP visit the Whitney or The Broad.
The film was made by Trevor Tweeten in the winter of 2021 on location at The Broad during the presentation of an upcoming exhibition that features multiple works by Julie Mehretu, including the painting Congress. Parts of Congress peak through the trapezium die cuts on the jacket design of the album, Promises. The painting is currently on view and in the permanent collection at The Broad. A mid-career survey of Mehretu's work is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through August 8. More on her exhibition here.
While composing Promises, Floating Points aka Sam Shepherd said he would refer to and get lost within Mehretu’s painting. He adds, “I wanted to perpetuate this idea of being centered in the middle of the painting with its details swirling around you and this film is an extrapolation of that idea, of being in the middle of this perfect storm which only slowly reveals itself.”
Once the album was completed, Shepherd understood how influential Julie’s paintings had become to him, particularly in his composition of the string section in the center of the piece. The idea for the trapezium seen on the album cover is sampled from a motif from the centre of the Congress painting itself, and a nod to Ornette Coleman’s album Free Jazz. An idea of making die-cuts of three flat planes stacked on top of each other developed, with the intention to invite listeners into the depths of Mehretu’s painting. The film, a reference to Michael Snow’s film Wavelength from 1967, was created to bring people deep into the painting, and allow them to get lost on their own.
Says Julie Mehretu: “It is an immense honor to be in the orbit of this brilliant, mesmerizing and transformative album composed by Sam Shepard, with one of the living legends of music, Pharoah Sanders. It feels like both a balm and a calling of this precarious, vertiginous time.”
Director Trevor Tweeten: “The film functions as a single sustained gesture, a journey emerging from the intimate details and texture of the painting. I was interested in the way the slow nearly imperceptible zoom had the potential to create a suspended state, opening up new possibilities of experiencing Congress through time. The trajectory of the film mirrors the shape of the music, ever expanding, slowly building momentum to points of reveal and release.”
The release of Promises: Through Congress marks Promises: Chapter II, following Promises: Chapter I, a non-visual experience hosted by Luaka Bop and actor Jesse Plemmons prior to release, which welcomed thousands of listeners from 70 countries around the world as they turned off their screens and did nothing but listen.
Five years in the making, Promises is a continuous piece of music presented in nine movements for saxophone, strings, keyboards and electronics, composed by Floating Points. The album represents Pharoah Sanders’ first new music in nearly two decades and was met with tremendous praise upon release earning a Critics’ Pick in the New York Times, a 9.0 Best New Music from Pitchfork, 5/5 stars from The Guardian and The Times, glowing reviews from the likes of the New Yorker, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, Vulture, The Nation and beyond.
More on Julie Mehretu
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970, Julie Mehretu was raised in East Lansing, Michigan. Since 1999, she has lived and worked in New York, establishing herself as one of the most exciting artists working in the United States. She received a BA in art from Kalamazoo College, Michigan, studied at Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal, and received an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. She is the recipient of The MacArthur Award (2005) and the US Department of State Medal of Arts Award (2015). She has shown her work extensively in solo and group exhibitions and is represented in public and private collections world wide. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. A mid-career survey of Mehretu's work is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through August 8.
More on Trevor Tweeten
Trevor Tweeten is a New York-based artist and cinematographer who works at the crossroads between film, sculpture, and installation. As a cinematographer, he has realized a number of films and video art projects, ranging from narrative to documentary to experimental. His work has been exhibited internationally including the Venice Biennale (2003), Barbican Centre, Louisiana Museum, Palais de Tokyo, Akademie der Künste, the National Gallery of Victoria and many others.
More on Sam Shepherd (Floating Points)
Born outside Manchester, England, Sam Shepherd is an electronic music composer who goes by the name Floating Points. Sam moved to London in his early twenties, where he developed a singular approach to sound and composition through a series of early singles, EPs, and remixes. In 2015 he released Elaenia, his debut album as Floating Points, with mesmerising ebbs and flows that spanned moments of light and dark; rigidity and freedom; elegance and chaos. His 2019 album ‘Crush’ further revealed his symphonic craftsmanship, combining classical sensibilities with complex Buchla synthesizer. The record received widespread acclaim and confirmed him to be one of the most forward thinking electronic music artists of his generation.
More on Pharoah Sanders
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas at the height of the Jim Crow era, Pharoah Sanders is one of the last icons of his generation. He performed with John Coltrane on his late-career free jazz masterpieces and then released a string of expansive recordings under his own name for the Impulse! label which have been cited as a pivotal influence by everyone from The Stooges to Marvin Gaye. With Coltrane, Sanders recorded some of the most revered -- and controversial -- albums in jazz history, embracing a wild, anarchic sound that would reverberate across genres for decades to come. Sanders’ subsequent solo output was similarly bold and influential, eventually winning a Grammy in the late ‘80s. In 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts bestowed him with its prestigious Jazz Master title, the genre’s highest honor.
More on Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by the artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942), houses the foremost collection of American art from the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Mrs. Whitney, an early and ardent supporter of modern American art, nurtured groundbreaking artists at a time when audiences were still largely preoccupied with the Old Masters. From her vision arose the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has been championing the most innovative art of the United States for ninety years. The core of the Whitney’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit American art of our time and serve a wide variety of audiences in celebration of the complexity and diversity of art and culture in the United States. Through this mission and a steadfast commitment to artists themselves, the Whitney has long been a powerful force in support of modern and contemporary art and continues to help define what is innovative and influential in American art today.
More on The Broad
The Broad is a contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The museum offers free general admission and presents an active program of rotating temporary exhibitions and innovative audience engagement, all within a landmark building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler. The Broad is home to 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, which is one of the world’s leading collections of postwar and contemporary art and welcomes more than 900,000 visitors a year. The 120,000-square-foot building features two floors of gallery space and is the headquarters of The Broad Art Foundation’s worldwide lending library, which has been loaning collection works to museums around the world since 1984.