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“How does your horn sound?”

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In a rare 1983 interview, Jean-Michel Basquiat mulled over the difficulty of describing his painting process: “It’s like asking somebody, asking Miles [Davis], ‘How does your horn sound?’” Basquiat’s analogy points to the kinship between visual art and music—including the ways that words can fail them.

“How does your horn sound?” is the second of a series of rotating exhibitions drawn from a single private collection of music photography. In the photographs here, artists and musicians dance together at clubs, preen in Andy Warhol’s factory, and gaze at one another from behind and in front of the camera. The line between visual artist and musician blurs: many of the artists here, like Basquiat himself, have been both.

Perhaps words can’t describe a horn’s sound or explain a painting’s imagery—but these photographs can offer us brief glimpses into the lives of the people who made them.

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Take part in the World of MASS MoCA.

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