Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Join us in making this video tribute to Beauford a reality!



Saturday, June 19, 2021

Beauford Delaney and Free Lunch - Part 1

Free Lunch is a three-volume digital album recorded by Free Tillman. Via a Google alert, I learned that Volume 3, entitled "Rap Ballads," includes a 2-minute recording called "Beauford Delaney (Instrumental) "

After listening to the recording multiple times, I contacted Tillman to ask for an interview. He responded quickly and affirmatively. 

I learned that Free (Lee) Tillman became aware of Beauford because of his fascination with the Harlem Renaissance. While he is more familiar with the writers and musicians of the time, anyone who was involved with the Harlem Renaissance is an inspiration to him.

Beauford in his Greene Street studio, New York City, 1944
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Tillman is also fascinated by James Baldwin and encountered Beauford's name in connection with Baldwin. He learned about Beauford mostly from reading online articles and watching YouTube videos, and he was aware that Beauford painted several portraits of Baldwin. He has never seen any of Beauford's works in person. 

Serendipitously, Tillman and Beauford share the same birthday, and Beauford died the year Tillman was born. Tillman is something of a visual artist as well - he creates his own visual backdrops for his performances and he also draws (though he has not produced anything he would be willing to show anyone yet). 

The majority of the twenty-two (22) tracks on Volume 3 of Free Lunch are named after artists - people such as Amy Sherald, Faith Ringgold, Ed Clark, and Sam Gilliam. I asked Tillman why. He responded:

Over the past few years, I’ve been studying art history on my own. Trying to understand different movements and where certain ideas came from. This year there was a documentary released called “Black Art: In the Absence of Light” which focuses a lot on the 1976 LACMA exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art. It features a lot of Black artists, new and old, that I had never heard of before. As I was wrapping up this project, Black art was on my mind, and I thought it would be an interesting idea to name all the songs after Black artists. Maybe someone would see all the names, do some research and find out something new. I’m familiar with the work of all the artists named but I do not know any of them personally.

I explained that Beauford did not want to be viewed as a black artist, or even as an American artist.  He strongly felt that "ARTIST" was the only term required to define him professionally.   I also explained that this in no way indicated that Beauford wanted to cast aside his identity as a black person.

Tillman then asked whether Beauford adopted Abstract Expressionism as a style because he did not want to be defined as a "Black artist."  I replied that I believe Beauford became an Abstract Expressionist painter because it allowed him to express the incredible emotion and energy that always churned within him, particularly when his inner voices became more insistent and more cruel.

Come back next week to read about Tillman's associations between "Beauford Delaney (Instrumental)" and specific pieces of Beauford's art.

No comments: