7 Questions for Afrofuturist and Funk Pioneer George Clinton on How to ‘Feel the Flow’ of Art

The artist is currently the subject of a solo show with Jupiter Contemporary in Miami Beach, Florida.

Artist and musician George Clinton in his studio in Tallahassee, Florida. Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Contemporary, South Beach, FL.

Creative multi-hyphenate George Clinton—musician, singer, bandleader, producer, and artist—first rose to fame as part of the music collective Parliament-Funkadelic, which produced an avant-garde form of funk music in the 1970s that drew inspiration from science fiction, futuristic fashion, and Surrealism. Considered one of the progenitors of Afrofuturism, Clinton’s singular aesthetic across genres has attracted followers worldwide. Along with music, Clinton maintains a painting practice that conveys many of the same themes and concerns as his other creative pursuits.

On view through December 31, 2023, Jupiter Contemporary of Miami Beach, Florida, is presenting a solo show of the artist’s work, “George Clinton: Ruff.” Featuring examples from a number of the artist’s hallmark series, the show centers on recent work as well as historic examples.

We reached out to Clinton to learn more about what he hopes to convey through his work.

Installation view of “George Clinton: Ruff” (2023). Courtesy of Jupiter Contemporary, Miami Beach, FL.

You are currently the subject of a solo show at Jupiter Contemporary, can you tell us about the body of work included in the show?

The exhibition “Ruff” is a presentation of works from my ongoing series of “Motherships,” “Atomic Dogs,” and “Entities.” The paintings are meant to inspire people to loosen up, feel the flow, and embrace the everyday. The paintings are an extension of my music and the world of funk, inspiring freedom for everyone. The music and visual realms are one, from the barber shop to the stage to the canvas. The aesthetic is informed by the sound and a collective consciousness where we all vibrate together.

George Clinton, Ruff I (2023). Photo: Michael Lopez. Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Contemporary, Miami Beach, FL.

What were some of the key sources of inspiration for these works?

Translating funk music into a visual form is inspiring and has always been a part of my creative process.

The movement of Afrofuturism and a world of unity and equality are the inspirations for the music and the art. I am inspired to create to elevate people to a higher state of consciousness. The intention is always for people to come together, and art is one more way to bring a different set of people together who may not show up at a concert but will come to an art gallery. My goal is to continue the same conversations that the music inspires.

The next generation always inspires me too. And the artwork is another way to reach them.

I also really get entranced in the process of painting, and it takes me to new dimensions that I hope others will experience as they look at my work. I want the art to provide the same inspiration as the music.

George Clinton, Methamphetamutt (2012). Photo: Michael Lopez. Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Contemporary, Miami Beach, FL.

What do you hope visitors of the gallery take away from the exhibition, or your work in general?

I want to broaden people’s perspectives, for my lyrics and rhythms to translate through the flow of paint, and for people to be inspired to feel free. They must disconnect in order to truly connect with themselves, the universe, and the people around them.

How would you describe your artistic process? Is it more intuitive and organic, or do you plan everything out ahead of time?

My process is organic and flows. I often go to bed dreaming about what I am going to paint in the morning and that’s the plan and then the plan is broken, and the paintings become a form of improvisation. I know the tones and values I want to convey and that is the direction for how the paintings evolve. I go back and forth between the acrylic spray paint and charcoal building up the surface with a pure intuitive flow. Words appear and land on the canvas sometimes. It is all in the flow.

George Clinton, Untitled 128 (2023). Photo: Michael Lopez. Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Contemporary, Miami Beach, FL.

What do you think the role of art is in the world today?

To bring people together and expand consciousness individually and collectively.

Looking to the future, what are you planning or hoping to work on next?

I will have a solo show at SCAD Art Museum opening in September 2024 and I would like to see it travel to reach as many people as possible.

Installation view of “George Clinton: Ruff” (2023). Courtesy of Jupiter Contemporary, Miami Beach, FL.

George Clinton: Ruff” is on view through December 31, 2023.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.