May 13, 2022

George Clinton Art Exhibit  ‘Grooves from the Deep’ in East Austin

Patrons attend opening night of the George Clinton exhibit on March 10 at the George Washington Carver Museum, Genealogy and Cultural Center. Pamela Vance/Reporting Texas

Curiosity brought dozens of fans of the musician George Clinton out to view his art exhibit during the opening reception in March at the George Washington Carver Museum in East Austin.

The exhibit, “Grooves from the Deep and the Space Math of George Clinton,” opened March 10 and will run through June 19. It’s the first public museum showing for Clinton, who debuted his visual art in a solo exhibition in a private gallery in New Orleans in 2021.

Austin resident Cecelia Jordan, 33, was excited to see how Clinton’s unique musical style transfers to other mediums.

 “I’m just amazed,” Jordan said. “The art … feels like it is very themed with things at the collective consciousness.”

Carre Adams, Carver Museum culture and arts education manager, said Clinton’s visual art is an extension of his music — a singular form of eclectic psychedelic funk that he performs in outrageous costumes with his band Parliament Funkadelic.

The exhibit features dozens of mixed-media paintings made by the artist, album covers from his records, posters, videos and photographs. 

Adams and exhibit co-curator Jessica Valoris selected some works for the exhibit during a visit to Clinton’s studio in Tallahassee, Florida, in March. They had scheduled a 90-minute meeting with Clinton, but ended up staying all day and coming back the next.

“He’s super chill, a really mellow and meditative guy. It was just a pleasure to hang out with him,” said Adams. “He told us a little bit about what he was inspired by. And from there, we started to sort of select images that we felt really went together thematically.”

“For us, outer space was something that appears in his work, things that are far out, things that are weird. Then we also started to notice these other patterns … words and texts … equations embedded into some of the images,” Adams said. “We see a lot of spaceships, dogs, figures that are partially human and partially animal.”

Opening night of the George Clinton exhibit at the George Washington Carver Museum, Genealogy and Cultural Center. Pamela Vance/Reporting Texas

The dog references evoke Clinton’s song “Atomic Dog” from his 1982 album “Computer Games.” The atomic dog images  — with long noses and long droopy ears — are sometimes misinterpreted, Adams said. They seem crude but shift between different levels of sophistication in terms of the detail color and there is always something that connects them, he added.

“For the longest time, he used the dog as a way of signing things. So that’s kind of where we get this, this idea around self portraiture, but also the nature of humanity,” Adams said. “ And if you want to play with the words you could say hue-manity because he is colorblind, so paints by temperature.”

Spring McManus, Clinton’s art manager, met him in September 2020. She had worked for galleries and Christie’s Auction House in New York for about 15 years. 

“When I met George, I was like, his voice needs to be heard in this new form of the visual. George has been practicing visual arts for the last four decades, and has only shown his artwork … a handful of times,” McManus said.

Clinton gave a talk and performed at the Soho House on South Congress Avenue the day after the Carver Museum opening reception. Clinton’s daughter, Brandy Clinton, 35, attended.

Her father is able to express himself through being colorblind and through his abstract work and show people what goes on with his mind with his artwork, she said.

“It’s a great expression of emotions and whatever he’s feeling,” Brandy Clinton said. “So I think it’s amazing, because people can actually tap into his emotions through his artwork.”