Rob Mazurek is a multidisciplinary artist/abstractivist, with a focus on electro-acoustic composition, improvisation, performance, painting, sculpture, video, film and installation, who spent much of his creative life in Chicago, and then Brazil. He currently lives and works in Marfa Texas with his wife Britt Mazurek.
Mazurek was born in 1965 in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1975 he moved with his family to a suburb of Chicago where he started playing cornet at the age of 10. A confrontation with the music of Sun Ra at the age of 16 at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 1981 had inspired Mazurek to want to become a serious composer performer. He first learned the foundations of improvised music while studying jazz theory and practice with David Bloom at the Bloom School of Jazz in Chicago, at the same time studying composition with Ralph Dodds (Roosevelt University), Sheldon Atovsky (Depaul University), Easley Blackwood (University of Chicago) and Ken Prince (Chicago). He began working with Chicago musicians Kenny Prince, Robert Barry, Jodie Christian, Lin Halliday, John Webber, George Fludas, Eric Alexander, Randy Tressler, Dennis Carol and Earma Thompson and many others in the mid 80’s-early 90’s.
In the early 90’s Mazurek released his first recording “Man Facing East” on the HEP records label featuring George Fludas, John Webber and Randolph Tressler, and released 2 more records with the addition of Eric Alexander. In 1993 he started painting in earnest after being stunned by a Mark Rothko painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and soon after created work that would eventually be used for the record covers for Chicago Underground Duo’s seminal work Synesthesia, Axis and Alignment and Isotope 217’s split remix. In1994, Mazurek formed the Chicago Underground Collective with guitarist Jeff Parker with a cast of revolving players including Robert Barry and Joshua Abrams, before settling on the lineup that would become the first release on Delmark Records “Playground” which features Jeff Parker, Chad Taylor, Chris Lopes, Sara Smith, Chad Taylor, a unit that ranges in size from duo to orchestra. The Underground’s first release on Delmark Records “Playground” was released with critical attention. Isotope 217 (conceived by Jeff Parker) was consequently born at this time and also began his fascination with incorporating electronics/computer music into his compositions and improvisations. The mid 90’s proved to be a fertile time for many musicians and artists, with the Chicago Underground and Isotope 2017 creating and releasing 6 full length records for Delmark and Thrill Jockey records.
In 2000 Mazurek moved to Manaus Brazil. While living in Brazil from 2000 to 2007, Mazurek constructed exotic soundscapes from the sounds of the Amazonian rain forest, including electric eels recorded at INPA research laboratory in Manaus and audio culled from storm systems on the outskirts of Brasilia. He continued his painting and sculpture experiments, creating works directly influenced by his surroundings and developed a working friendship with artist Guilherme Vaz. It was in Belo Horizonte that Mazurek met Mauricio Takara and Guilherme Granado, his partners in the São Paulo Underground, a group dedicated to exploring and expanding upon Brazilian musical traditions. He would move to Sao Paulo in 2005 and stayed for 2 years before moving back to Chicago.
Originally inspired by a joint commission from the Chicago Cultural Center and Jazz Institute of Chicago, Mazurek founded the Exploding Star Orchestra in 2005 to investigate Chicago’s avant-garde musical traditions with a group made up of musicians from the North side, West Side, South side, East side, from the burgeoning post rock scene to the highly influential AACM and North side Improvisation Scene. The Orchestra has premiered 10 extended suites since its inception, including “Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time,” “Cosmic Tomes for Sleepwalking Lovers,” “Constellations for Inner Light Projections for Bill Dixon,” “Stars Have Shapes,” “63 Moons of Jupiter”, “Transgressions Suite”, “The Space Between”, “Atmospheres for Roscoe Mitchell” and “Galactic Parables Volume 1 and Volume 2”. The group has featured luminaries Roscoe Mitchell, Bill Dixon, and Fred Anderson alongside it’s stellar cast of revolving musicians including Nicole Mitchell, Jeff Parker, Matt Bauder, Jeb Bishop, Ken Vandermark, Mike Reed, John Herndon, John McEntire, Jim Baker, Josh Abrams, Jason Ajemian, Angelica Sanchez, Steve Swell, Chad Taylor, Hamid Drake, Tomeka Reid, Matthew Lux, Matana Roberts, Kevin Drumm, Mauricio Takara, Guilherme Granado, Jason Adasiewicz, Avreeayal Ra, Dan Bitney, David Boykins, Corey Wilkes, Carrie Biolo, Jeff Kowalkowski, Jason Stein, Greg Ward, Artur Majewski and more! In 2018 Mazurek was commissioned by the Berlin Jazz Festival to compose music for Exploding Star International which included Berlin based musicians Els Vandeweyer, Magda Mayas, Biliana Voutchkova, Julia Reidy, Sabine Vogel and Elias Stemeseder, with the world premiere in November 2018. The orchestra have performed at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival, SESC Sao Paulo, Sant’anna Arresi Jazz Festival, Jazz em Agosto, Saalfelden Jazz Festival and many more.
Over the years Mazurek has lead/co-lead many ensembles of various sizes and shapes including Exploding Star Orchestra, Exploding Star International, Desert Encrypts, Immortal Birds Bright Wings, Pharaoh and the Underground (featuring Pharoah Sanders), Chicago Underground, Jeff Parker Duo, Pulsar Quartet, São Paulo Underground, Alternate Moon Cycles, Alien Flower Sutra, Star Splitter, Return The Tides, Skull Sessions Octet, Tigersmilk, Third Coast Ensemble, Sound Is Quintet, Starlicker, and Mandarin Movie, each of which possesses its own distinct musical personality. He has collaborated with a wide variety of artists, such as the great Bill Dixon, Pharoah Sanders, Mike Ladd, Roscoe Mitchell, Yusef Lateef, Fred Anderson, Fred Hopkins, Liam Gillick, Naná Vasconcelos, Rodrigo Brandao, Mamelo Sound System, Alexandre Kassin, Marcelo Camelo, and others.
As a composer, Mazurek has written over 300 original compositions over the past 30 years, and has released 70+ recordings on various labels including Astral Spirits, International Anthem, Aesthetics, Corbett vs Dempsey, Cuneiform, CleanFeed, Delmark, El Paraiso, Family Vineyard, Harmonipan, Mego, Northern Spy, Rogue Art, Submarine, Thrill Jockey, and his own label Infinity Dogs. Beyond his ensemble efforts, Mazurek’s solo endeavors reflect his interest in musique concrete, sound installation and electronic sound manipulation, with releases on Astral Spirits, Cleanfeed, Bottrop-Boy, Delmark, Mego and Moikai that document his compositions utilizing Modular Synthesizers, computer programming, electronic effects and keyboards.
Mazurek has also been awarded a number of commissions and awards. In 2019 Mazurek was commissioned with Julien Desprez to compose new music for a project called (T)ropic which will premiere at the Sons de Hiver Festival in France. In 2018 he was commissioned to compose a new work “Galactic Parables Volume 2” for Exploding Star International for the Berlin Jazz Festival. In 2017 he was commissioned to compose a new work for Area Sismica’s Forli Open Music Program and presented “Forli Scores” featuring Pasquale Mirra, Danilo Gallo, Cristiano Calcagnile and Fabrizio Puglisi. In 2016 he was commissioned to compose a new work “Land of Spirals” for the Novara Festival in Italy and also received the key to the city after the performance. In 2016, he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts for an experimental film titled “The Farnsworth Scores” in collaboration with filmmaker Lee Anne Schmitt, which was shot at Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation, In 2013 Mazurek was awarded the Helen Coburn Meier & Tim Meier Foundation Grant. Also In 2013, he was commissioned to compose “Galactic Parables Volume 1” by the Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sant’Anna Arresi, Sardinia, Italy. In 2011, he was commissioned to compose "Violent Orchid Suite" by the Jazz & Wine Festival in Cormons, Italy, and "Transgressions Suite", by the Sant'Anna Arresi Jazz Festival. In 2010, he received the Commissioning Music/USA grant from Meet the Composer for a multi-media work developed in collaboration with video artist/choreographer Marianne Kim. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious artist residency at Abbeye Royale de Fontevraud in France. Mazurek has been prominently featured in scores of interviews and features including cover features twice in the Wire’s “Adventures in Modern Music” issues 201 and 354.
Mazurek’s visual work has garnered much attention with international solo, and group exhibitions/installations and artist residencies. He has shown his works at locations throughout the United States, South America and Europe, including the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, where his paintings hang on the office walls, Marfa Book Company (Marfa, Texas), Audible Gallery at Experimental Sound Studio (Chicago), URDLA Centre Estampe et Livre (Villeurbanne, France) where his solo show “Constellation Scores” was featured as part of the 2017 Lyon Bienalle focus series, Novas Frequencies (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Galleria Coletivo (São Paulo, Brazil), Abbey Royal de Fontevraud (Fontevraud-l’Abbaye, Anjou, France), Heaven Gallery (Chicago), Le Grande Fabrique (Dieppe, France) and Carrie Secrist Gallery (Chicago). A book released by Harmonipan Editions “Marfa Loops Shouts and Hollers” was released in 2018 concerning his exhibition of the same name in Marfa Texas, with essays by John Corbett, Tiago Mesquita and Tim Johnson.
Desert Encrypts - Multimedia Performance, Graphic Scores and Sculpture - Marfa Book Company - Marfa, TX
Constellation Scores - Lithography - Art Fair - Galeristes Carreau du Temple - Paris, France
Constellation Scores - Lithography, Collage, Painting and Sound - Solo Show - URDLA - Villeurbanne, France Psychotropic Electric Eel Dream IV - Sound Installation - Lincoln Park Conservatory - Chicago, IL
The Shaping Light - Neon, Painting and Sculpture - Solo Show - Audible Gallery - Chicago, IL
The Farnsworth Scores - Film Premiere - Film Festival - CineMarfa - Marfa, TX
Constellation Scores - Lithography - Group Show - IX International Engraving Exhibition - Cremona, Italy Constellation Scores - Lithography - Group Show - Contexts International Festival of Ephemeral Art - Sokolowsko, Poland
Psychotropic Electric Eel Dream III - Multimedia Performance and Sound Installation - Novas Frequências - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Marfa Loops Shouts and Hollers - Painting and Sculpture - Solo Show - Marfa Book Company - Marfa, TX Chromo 5 - Film - Film Festival - Cankarjev Dom - Ljubljana, Slovenia
Constellation Scores & Matter/Anti-Matter - Lithography - Group Show - Galleria Logo - São Paulo, Brazil
Constellation Scores & Matter/Anti-Matter - Painting and Lithography -Solo Show - URDLA - Villeurbanne, France
Matter/Anti-Matter - Group Show - Galleria Coletivo - São Paulo, Brazil
The White Paintings - Painting and Film - Solo Show - Galleria Coletivo - São Paulo, Brazil Resonance - Painting - Solo Show - Espacio Cultural El Tanque - Tenerife, Spain
Sound Light 1 - Multimedia Performance - La Grande Fabrique - Dieppe, France
Chronolight Multiple - Film Installation - Le Consortium - Dijon, France
Rothko Scores - Permanent Installation of Paintings - Rothko Chapel Offices - Houston, TX
Chronolight - Painting and Film - Solo Show - Espace Multimédia Gantner - Bourogne, France Chromatic - Painting, Film and Lightbox - Solo Show - Dank Museum - Chicago, IL
Abstractions on Robert D’Arbrissel - Painting and Film - Solo Show - Abbaye Royal de Fontevraud - Fontevraud, France
Bike Migration & Electric Eels - Film, Painting and Sound Installation -Traveling Group Show - Protocole Troll - Paris, France; Helsinki, Finland; Barcelona, Spain; Rome, Italy; Copenhagen, Denmark; Brussel, Belgium; Palermo, Italy, and Toronto, Canada
Red, Yellow, Green - Digital Prints and Painting - Group Show - Carrie Secrist Gallery - Chicago, IL