Artist, educator, and curator Leonardo Bravo is Director of School Programs at the Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County. He also organizes and produces Big City Forum, an interdisciplinary project designed to bring together creative practitioners over issues related the social dimensions of art, design, and public space. As an artist and curator, he’s had a long history exhibiting at spaces such as the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Whittier College Arts Gallery, Deep River Gallery, Barbara Davis Gallery (Houston, TX), POST LA, Michael’s Restaurant (Santa Monica, CA), and Fifth Floor Gallery. Here he talks about how music seeps into all his activities.
What do you listen to while you work? I’ve been a music fiend most of my life and have always been interested in multiple genres and styles of music. It definitely depends on my mood. Lately, I’ve been drawn to sounds that have a sense of repetition, space, and contrapuntal patterns, so have been listening to stuff like Bach’s “Art of the Fugue,” lots of Glen Gould recordings, and Steve Reich’s “Tehillim” and “Music for 18 Musicians,” and all kinds of dub from the ’70s. It probably reflects my need for clarity and focus away from the constant overload of information processing. There’s also a nice parallel to how my own work has become more reductive over the last couple of years dealing with the relationships and tensions between color, shape, line, and space….this also reflects my own deepening interest in architecture and the many ways to understand the built space through paths, edges, nodes, and shifting interrelations. I guess I can really geek out about all this, but it merely shows how much music seeps into all my activities.
How do you listen? For the gearheads, I usually plug the iPod into a Parasound Pre-amp and a NAD 2100 Power Amp connected to KEF bookshelf speakers. Most of the time, though, I like just zoning out to headphones.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Well, it seems like just about everybody has switched over to Spotify by now. It is a pretty effective way to dig through an artist’s back catalog or discover new sounds. However, there’s nothing that compares to the old days of spending hours flipping through record bins and that incredibly tactile quality of discovering LPs that were conduits to new sounds, experiences, entire worlds.
Does music influence your work? Music is an intrinsic part of my life. It has an innate ability to tap directly into the conscious and unconscious and seeps into everything I do. So yes, my artwork many times becomes a visual representation of the music I’m drawn to. It’s no accident that my current passion for dub is feeding and informing all my new pieces.
Who influences your musical taste? Having grown up with a father who was a concert violist meant that music was a vital part from my earliest memories. I pretty much only listened to classical music until I was about eight years old, so that gave me a deep understanding not only of composers and genres, but also of how music could sound–its tone, texture, colors, depth.
I was also lucky to come of age in Southern California in the early 80s, where I very much felt like an outsider, but happened to stumble into hardcore punk and the nascent skate/surf culture. This was a million miles away from my very innocent classical upbringing, but listening to bands with a distinct and propulsive energy offered a very blunt, fast, and direct appeal to resist and break away from the status quo around me. That left a taste for sounds and artists that roamed the fringes and margins and required time and energy to discover…before everything was at our fingertips and could be Googled in seconds. Ever since then, there’s been one door after another that’s blown it open for me with new sounds and all-consuming passions such as Brian Eno, Astor Piazzola, Tropicalia, Nick Drake, kraut rock, and many more. Looking back, it’s been a long and rewarding musical journey and I still jones for the thrill of finding a band that brings something new to the table.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? At my most self-absorbed, I would want a work of pure genius such as John Coltrane’s “Stellar Regions” to represent my work. But at the end of the day, I just want something breezy with a nice propulsive kick that talks about that old black magic, such as Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”
Ideal place to sit and listen to your Playlist: George Nelson’s Coconut Chair. I can just imagine its sleek, elegant contours enveloping me in its comfort and making me have sweet dreams of mid-century utopias.
- Surprise Hotel, Fool’s Gold
- My Mistakes, Eleanor Friedberger
- Sound and Vision, David Bowie
- Order of the Golden Dawn, Daedelus
- Moonshake, CAN
- Cancao de Amor, Caetano Veloso
- Let’s Stick Together, Roxy Music
- Marquee Moon, Television
- Ja Sei Namorar, Tribalistas
- Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again, Marvin Gaye
- L’Hôtel Particulier, Serge Gainsbourg
- Jah Is Coming in Dub, King Tubby
Photos: Leonardo Bravo