Roger Brown: His Political Landscape
Roger Brown's highly political practice articulated the landscape as a tool for cultural commentary. A snapshot of his life and times, Brown's painted landscapes capture the political landscape of the late 20th century with uncompromising honesty.
Brown (b. 1941 Hamilton, Alabama, USA; d. 1997 Atlanta, Georgia, USA) was a keen commentator on contemporary American life. Born in Deep South and spending his adult life primarily in the Midwest, Brown was perennially marginalised by his status as an out gay man. He mobilised political figuration in painting with fearlessness and wit to communicate the political realities which comprise his lived experience of the world. This exhibition considers a selection of works from the early 1970s through the 1990s, covering the majority of Brown's working career as an adult, and considers some of his means of articulating landscape painting as a genre fertile with possibility for cultural commentary. Diversely fascinated by such topics as American imperialism, the internal politics of the art world, environmentalism, terrorism, queer culture and the AIDS crisis, Brown's expansive interests collectively paint a portrait of a rapidly changing world in the late 20th century.
Brown was a pioneering American artist whose extensive and diverse oeuvre both translated and transformed the visual and cultural landscapes of his time. Brown was a leader among the Chicago Imagists, yet his work transcended regionalist concerns, and set him apart as a radical visionary amongst his contemporaries. Born and raised in the rural South, Brown moved to Chicago in the early 1960s. His interests ranged from the Italian Renaissance, to Surrealism, to Comics and Pop Art, and he was a connoisseur of autodidact art traditions of the American South and Midwest.
As a queer man, Brown was intimately aware of the inherent biases suffered by any outsider who dared to challenge existing social, political, and cultural traditions. With immense wit and self-deprecating humour, Brown bravely faced his foes, creating a distinctive visual legacy along the way. Brown eventually died after a long battle with complications relating to HIV/AIDS. His struggle with this disease played an important role in his work, as well as in his personal and philanthropical life. Brown's life and work are honoured with permanent exhibitions of his house and studio in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood of Chicago, which includes his vast collection of folk and vernacular art.
The depth and power of the body of work Brown left behind is only now beginning to be grasped. Brown's ideas, and the grace with which he expressed them, will be studied for generations to come.
Brown's work is included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, and several other important institutions. Several major retrospectives of his work have traveled the United States including the Hirshhorn Museum and Montgomery Museum of Fine Art. Recent important group shows include Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 at MoMA PS1, About Face: Stonewall, Revolt and New Queer Art at Wrightwood 659, and Famous Artists from Chicago 1965–1975 at Fondazione Prada. Recent solo exhibitions include Roger Brown: Virtual Still Lifes at the Museum of Art and Design, New York, and Roger Brown: Hyperframe at Kavi Gupta, Chicago.