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Museum of Arts and Design

Roger Brown: Virtual Still Lifes, Museum of Arts and Design, 2019

Museum of Arts and Design
Roger Brown: Virtual Still Lifes
In these “virtual” still lifes, the concrete and the pictorial blur to enshrine and celebrate real experience.

Roger Brown: Virtual Still Lifes brings together, for the first time, a vast grouping of the artist’s “Virtual Still Life” paintings (1995–97) made near the end of his career. By positioning these works alongside others that highlight their development, including early paintings demonstrating his interest in the stage and installations conveying the centrality of collecting to his practice, the exhibition lays out Brown’s process through the objects he collected and the spaces he created for and with them. This will mark the first New York solo museum show devoted to Brown, arguably one of the most significant artists to emerge from Chicago in the twentieth century.

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Painting by Roger Brown titled City Nights from 1978

Roger Brown, City Nights, 1978

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Uncommon Accumulation: The Mark and Judy Bednar Collection of Chicago Imagism

These new additions uphold MMoCA as having one of the largest, and now one of the most comprehensive, collections of Chicago Imagism.

To celebrate Mark and Judy Bednar’s transformative gift of Chicago Imagist art from their collection to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, MMoCA will bring together the gift in the museum’s main galleries. Uncommon Accumulation will showcase works that have already been gifted to the museum alongside the promised gifts that have been collected by the Bednars over the past 45 years. This gift of nearly 100 works of art complements the museum’s existing collection of Chicago Imagism through its inclusion of artworks produced very early in the careers of several of the artists. Formative works by Roger Brown, Robert Lostutter, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum, and Ray Yoshida from the 1960s and 70s—a period when some of the Imagists were still in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)—are part of this extraordinary gift. These new additions uphold MMoCA as having one of the largest, and now one of the most comprehensive, collections of Chicago Imagism.

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Hessel Museum of Art

Horizons are not Infinite, Hessel Museum of Art, 2020

Hessel Museum of Art
Horizons are not infinite
From landscapes to cityscapes, from the corner of a room to the edges of the earth, these works by Brown, Denes, and Sandback present axonometric visions of a possible world, hope in finitude, and ways to imagine the future.

Horizons are not infinite examines the use of axonometric projection by Roger Brown (1941–1997), Agnes Denes (b. 1931), and Fred Sandback (1943–2003) and speculates on the significance of this technique during the 1970s and 1980s. By reflecting on the cultural conditions of these decades and how they resonate with the present, the exhibition gathers paintings and prints whose axonometric visions of the world create ways to imagine the future.

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Biography

Biography

Portrait of Roger Brown

Roger Brown began exhibiting his work in the late 1960s, alongside a group of artists often referred to as the Chicago Imagists. Celebrated for their use of imagery, figuration, narrative, and patterning, these artists pulled from idiosyncratic sources to produce deeply personal and visually diverse work, shirking the cool, stylistic orthodoxies that dominated on the coasts. Brown moved in circles around the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which nurtured the unconventional interests of Brown and his peers. Brown was deeply associated with Chicago during his lifetime: he graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1970; he kept a series of studios, filled with carefully selected art and objects, from both the vernacular and mainstream realms, that culminated in his building in the Lincoln Park neighborhood; and his instantly legible paintings and objects, replete with silhouetted figures, patterned landscapes, and scalloped skies, rendered in dizzying isometric perspective, helped foster a community of artists that announced Chicago as a viable site of artistic production.

Roger Brown was born in Hamilton, Alabama, in 1941. His parents owned successful groceries and belonged to the Church of Christ, known for its fire and brimstone intensity. Brown’s father, himself an accomplished woodworker, instilled in his children a love of good craftsmanship and handmade things. His mother and her large extended family recounted their extensive family history, emphasizing the importance of narrative and place. Long car trips exposed Brown to the variety of the American landscape, and with his brother, he devoured comic books and movies at the Art Deco Martin Theater in Opelika. As Brown said in 1987, “I really think that my going in the direction I did comes from being Southern.” Two of Brown’s professors at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago encouraged Brown to draw on these diverse experiences in his work. Ray Yoshida, an artist and Brown’s painting instructor, organized trips to the Maxwell Street Flea Market, where Yoshida encouraged them to find inspiration in visually powerful, non-traditional sources. Whitney Halstead, professor of Art History, was an early advocate of the importance of non-western, folk, and outsider art, and organized trips to the Field Museum of Natural History, where Brown saw African and Oceanic Objects. Brown synthesized and made reference to these diverse sources for the duration of his career, making and collecting work that upset traditional art historical hierarchies.

In 1971, Phyllis Kind first exhibited Brown’s work, which began their strong relationship as the exclusive representative and advocate of his work for his entire career. In 1972, Brown was featured in the book Fantastic Images: Chicago Art Since 1945 by Franz Schulze, and his reputation continued to grow throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, Brown met architect George Veronda (1940-1984) and the two formed a strong artistic and personal relationship. In 1974, Brown purchased a storefront in Chicago that became his first home, studio, and collection environment, which he renovated with George Veronda. Later in the decade, he commissioned Veronda to design a home and studio for a Lake Michigan dunes property that he had purchased in New Buffalo, Michigan. For several years, Brown divided his time between Chicago and New Buffalo, where he assembled a second collection of art and objects. Aware of his own mortality – Brown had lived with HIV/AIDS for nearly a decade – Brown made a series of gifts to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, establishing the school as the primary repository for his personal, professional, and artistic effects. In 1995 he gave the school his New Buffalo, Michigan retreat, which operates as a residency facility for faculty and staff. In 1996, he gave the school his Chicago collection, which was formalized into the Roger Brown Study Collection, a house museum, archive, and special collection in 1997. Brown also bequeathed his home and collection in La Conchita, California to the school, before his death in 1997.

Brown’s work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations both stateside and abroad, including exhibitions at The Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; and Des Moines Art Center. Brown’s work is frequently featured in major group exhibitions, including recent presentations at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, London; Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. His work is held in numerous public collections around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Birmingham Art Museum; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Brown lived and worked in Chicago before his death in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1997.

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