James Brown (1952), Pencil on Paper, Framed in Found Shadowbox. James Brown (1952), Pencil on Paper, Framed in Found Shadowbox. James Brown (1952), Pencil on Paper, Framed in Found Shadowbox. James Brown / The Realm of Chaos and Light: The Soul’s Distinct Connection, 2009-11; at Karsten Greve Gallery, Paris.

NYC Artist James Brown Drawing

James Brown (1952), Pencil on Paper, Framed in Found Shadowbox, 10.74 x 14 inches, 1980’s. Acquired by former lover of the artist. US$1800. Sold unframed.


James Brown (born 1951) is an American-born painter now active in Paris and Oaxaca (Mexico). He was most well known in the 1980s for his rough painterly semi-figurative paintings, bearing affinities to Jean-Michel Basquiat and East Village painting of the time, but with influences from primitive art and classical Western modernism.

Life and work:
Born in Los Angeles, California, he received at BFA from Immaculate Heart College, Hollywood. He then spent years in Paris, and attended the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France. He rebelled against the classical training there, which he considered irrelevant, but stayed as he wanted to stay in Paris. Tours of Europe seeing renaissance and especially medieval painting of Italy influenced his work. During the 1980s, his paintings, mixing the modernist tradition of painterly application and adherence to the picture surface with clear influences from tribal art. In the early 1980s he began exhibiting in New York, and in this decade this work became a hit in the galleries and art press, sharing a look with the Bad Painting and young neo-expressionism of the East Village painters of the time.

On 12 September 1987 he married Alexandra Condon, who was studying History of Art at NYU at the time. They had known each other for little more than ten years. Despite some time on the East and West coast of New York, he continued to live in Paris. With the fading of the East Village art scene he had increasingly shown in European galleries, where his work was now seen in the context of a post-war European modernism in the tradition of Jean Dubuffet. James and Alexandra had their first child, Degenhart Maria Grey Brown, on 24 September 1989 in New York. In 1991 their second boy, Cosmas And Damian Maria Todosantos Brown, was born on 6 June in Paris. On 16 April 1993, their daughter was born, Dagmar Maria Jane Brown, in New York. In 1995 he moved out to the valley of Oaxaca (Mexico) with his family, where they lived in a hacienda for nine years. During that time, James Brown continued exhibiting in Europe, the United States and Mexico. He and his wife collaborated with various artists, making rugs in a village in the mountains of Oaxaca. The rugs were made in the traditional Mexican fashion, weaved by hand on large wooden frames. Jamaes and Alexandra then decided to start making books with artists, so they started Cape Diem Press. Like the rugs, these books are printed in Oaxaca using old-fashioned and traditional methods. The books are printed in limited editions, and Carpe Diem Press continues to collaborate with artists. In 2004, they moved to the city of Mérida, in the Yucatán. Since then James Brown has been spending much time in Europe, exhibiting his work in France, Germany, Italy and Holland. He has been working mostly in Paris.

His work has taken on several styles over the years, but maintains a hand-made look combining concerns of the modernist tradition with motifs and spiritual interests from tribal art. Much of his work is a non-realistic but contains depictions or signs of recognizable faces or objects. More recently he has done more in an abstract mode. However, the line between representation and abstraction is often a difficult one in his work, such as his more recent “Firmament Series” – abstract canvases that can also be read as referring to constellations or stars, or groups of rocks. Besides paintings Brown has also produced sculptures and series of prints at various points in his career, and in the 1990s started to heavily utilize collage. Drawing and other unique works on paper have been important to his artistic development and production. In an Artforum review of a 25 year retrospective, Martha Schwendener noted “The works range from abstract gouaches to biomorphic and figurative watercolors to collages that update the synthetic Cubist experiments of Picasso and Braque.”




James Brown / The Realm of Chaos and Light: The Soul’s Distinct Connection, 2009-11; at Karsten Greve Gallery, Paris.

by Lisa Liebmann And Brooks Adams

“The peripatetic life of James Brown—painter, sculptor, ceramicist, publisher, paterfamilias and ascetic yet devilish-seeming avatar of elegance—has led him far afield from the New York art world that launched him during the early 1980s, all the way to the outer cosmos, if you will. Now working primarily in Merida, Mexico, and in Paris, he has since 2004 been pressing on toward the completion of a serenely ambitious series of 81 abstract paintings, realized within his studio in constellations of nine, that was inspired by the composer Gustav Holst’s famous early-modernist orchestral work, The Planets (1914-16). About a dozen of Brown’s recent astral-themed canvases, including one measuring approximately 10 by 20 feet, along with related works on linen, paper and in porcelain, were recently on view in an exhibition titled “The Realm of Chaos and Light (Part 2),” wherein airiness and grandeur coexisted to delightful, mind-clearing effect.

The principal paintings on view, all from 2008 to ’11, were rigorously conceived and labor-intensive. Brown, who is currently nearing the last “movement” in this symphonic series, always begins by setting down a more or less random, plentiful array of small painted dots and daubs on raw linen canvas. These notational incidents are then connected by fine penciled lines, producing an overall, irregular, net- or weblike pattern. Over this delicately charted field he applies a few loosely spaced, impulsive passages of brushwork, generally arcs or softly angled swaths of close-valued color in the blue to brownish range, that build up to become rude shapes suggesting asteroids and, occasionally, black holes. The artist’s elemental protagonists are sparely deployed within each discrete field: Only four such substantive forms, for example, populate the vast expanse of The Realm of Chaos and Light: The Soul’s Distinct Connection. There, they seem to hover and vibrate with inchoate meaning, producing faint echoes, at times, from our own planetary realm of art. A viewer may variously conjure up fleeting images of work by Joan Miró, Adolph Gottlieb, Yayoi Kusama or, perhaps especially, Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly, whose exquisite fusions of line and field, earthiness and the ephemeral seem equally relevant to Brown’s continuing painterly endeavor.

Brown grew up in Southern California where, he will proudly tell you, he was educated by Jesuits in high school as well as college. (He also attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the late 1970s.) During the 1980s and early 1990s in New York, his work, often biomorphic or “primitivist” in its imagistic references, and invariably pleasurable in its innate stylishness, seemed nevertheless uncertain, as if in search of a raison d’être beyond the personal discipline and esthete’s ethos involved in its making. But these impressive new works, positively Theosophical in their implied affinities, are solidly grounded—in ether.


2012 TURIN, GAM.
2011 PARIS, Karsten Greve, The realm of Chaos and Light, May-August. / PARIS, Lelong, Paintings on Paper 1985-1990, September-October. / TRENTO, Raffaeli, Eclipse, October-November, Catalogue Eclipse. / TORINO, Museo de Arte Moderna, Firmament, November-December.
2010 BORDEAUX, Château Lynch-Bages, Stabat Mater, May-October. / BERLIN, Akira Ikeda, Kyoto Drawing, October-December.
2009 ALESSANDRIA, Soave Gallery, October, Catalogue Into the Emptiness. / THE HAGUE, Livingstone Gallery, September-October. Book Handbook. / EINDHOVEN, Willy Schoots, March-May. Book Handbook. / LEEUWARDEN, Museum of Ceramics, March-May. / MEXICO CITY, Hilario Galguera, April-May. / BELGIUM, Le Triangle Belu, May-August. / BOLOGNA, MAGI’900, December 2009-January 2010. Catalogue James Brown in Italy: Three Decades.
2007 THE HAGUE, Livingstone Gallery, March-April. / BRUSSELS, Pierre Bergé & Associés, April-May. / PARIS, Galerie Karsten Greve, November-January 2008. / COLOGNE, Galerie Karsten Greve, November-January 2008.
2006 NEW YORK, Fisher Landau Center for Art, April-May. / MOSCOW, Aidan Gallery, June. / NEW YORK, Garth Clark Gallery, Summer. / ARCO, Galleria Civica, September-November, Catalogue Kachina. / BOLOGNA, Galleria L’Ariete, November. / COLUMBUS, Rebecca Ibel, Catalogue.
2005 STOCKHOLM, Wetterling Gallery, Catalogue The Nine Planets. / MERIDA, Ex-Escuela Quintana Roo, March. Catalogue James Brown: Residencia Oaxaca. / SEOUL, Juliana Gallery, June. Catalogue The Planets.
2004 NEW YORK, Dieu Donné Papermill Gallery, January. / THE HAGUE, Livingstone Gallery, January. Catalogue Internal Order. / ROUEN, École des Beaux-Arts, February. / LANDSBERG, Neues Stadtmuseum, April. Catalogue A Biker’s Collection. / NEW YORK, Anthony Grant Fine Art, May. / OAXACA, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, May-July. Catalogue James Brown: Residencia Oaxaca. / EINDHOVEN, Galerij Willy Schoots, September. Catalogue: Iternal Order. / TRANS-EN-PROVENCE, Galerie Remarque. Artist’s book Elastiques Partant.
2003 BERLIN, Galerie Sander, January. / MADRID, Galeria La Caja Negra, February-March. LAUSANNE, Galerie Alice Pauli, April-May. NAPLES, Museo Cappella San Severo, May. Artist’s book The Hospital of Souls. / NAPLES, Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea, May. / MALAGA, Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Summer. Catalogue Opus Contro. / SAN MARINO, Galleria de Arte Moderna, Summer. Catalogue Opus Contro Natura. / REGENSBURG, Staedtische Galerie Leerer Beutel, October-December. / AMSTERDAM, Galerie van der Straeten, November. Catalogue Internal Order.
2002 BERLIN, Galerie Jan Wagner, April. / LA LOUVIERE, Centre de la Gravure, Print Retrospective, April-July. / VALENCIA, Galeria Charpa, April-May. / DARMSTADT, Galerie Sander, October. / BOLOGNA, Galleria l’Ariete and John Hopkins University, November. / PARIS, Couvent des Cordeliers, Or et Plomb, December-January 2003.
2001 NEW YORK, Pace Prints, February, Catalogue Raisonné Images 1986-1999. / MUNICH, Galerie Bernd Klueser, February. / REGENSBURG, Galerie Peter Baeumler, April. / TORINO, Galleria Masoero, June. / SEOUL, Juliana Fine Art, June. Catalogue Salt. / OAXACA, Bodega Quetzalli, Summer. Brochure. / NEW YORK, Ralph Pucci, Summer. / WASHINGTON, Gallery Burton/Marinkovich, July. / STOCKHOLM, Galerie Wetterling, September. Catalogue The Substance of Shadow. / NEW YORK, Grant Selwyn Fine Art, September. / VENICE, Gallerie d’Arte A&A, Summer. Catalogue.
2000 PARIS, La Maison des Arts Malakoff, February. Catalogue Works on Paper 1981-1998. / BARI, Galleria Bonomo, March. / FLORIDA, Gallery Dorothy Blau, March. / SAN FRANSISCO, Gallery Paule Anglim, April. / KAISERSLAUTERN, Pfalzgalerie, April-May. / CHEMNITZ, Kunstammlungen, July-September. / RONCO/ASCONA, Galleria Nova, Summer. / PARIS, Librairie les Arcades, Livres d’Artistes, October.
1999 CERET, Museum d’Art Moderne, March-May. PARIS, Galerie Lelong, May. Catalogue Internal Order Reperes 102. / MEXICO CITY, Ace Gallery, Summer. / VENICE, Galerie Bordas Prova d’Artista, June. Catalogue Suite I. / TRENTO, Studio Raffaeli, October-November. Catalogue James Brown New Works. / TORINO, Galleria d’Arco di Torino, October-November. : BOUVET-LADUBAY, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Winter. : SATAVELOT, Galerie Triangle Bleu, December.
1998 NEW YORK, Serge Sorokko Gallery, January. / NAPLES, Scognamiglio & Teano, March-April. / LAUSANNE, Galerie Alice Pauli, April-May. / THE HAGUE, Livingstone Gallery, April.
1997 TRIESTE, Galleria Lipanjepuntin, October-November. Catalogue The Story of Stone. / SAN FRANSISCO, Serge Sorokko Gallery, September.
1996 REGENSBURG, Galerie Peter Baeumler, April. Catalogue The Fourteen Stations. / ROME, Galleria Bonomo, March-April. / TRENTO, Studio d’Arte Raffaeli, April-May. Catalgoue James Brown Opere Recenti. / NEW YORK, Earl McGrath Gallery, May. / LJUBLJANA, Galerie Visconti & Centre Culturel Français. Catalogue.
1995 NEW YORK, Leo Castelli Gallery, February. / NEW YORK, Office for Art and Archictecture. / ORLEANS, Le Carre Saint Vincent, February-April. / LAUSANNE, Galerie Alice Pauli, May. / TRENTO, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, April-June. Catalogue. / MONTREAL, Samual Lallouz Gallery, October. / TRIESTE, LipanjePuntin ArteContemporanea, December-Januray 1996. / BARI, Galleria Bonomo, December-January 1996. / PARIS, Galerie Kiron, Artist’s book Selfportrait.
1994 LONDON, Connaught Brown Gallery, February. / ELTVILLE, Galerie Ribbentrop, May. / MUNICH, Galerie Bernd Klueser, September-November. / NAGOYA, Akira Ikeda Gallery, November. / CASABLANCA, Galerie Meltem, DecemberJanuary 1995. Catalogue Tahar Ben Jelloun Cinq Poèmes, James Brown Dix Dessins.
1993 LOS ANGELES, Earl McGrath Gallery, February. / REGENSBURG, Gelrie Baeumler, April. / BUENOS AIRES, Galleria Der Bruecke, Summer. / COLOGNE, Galerie Heinz Holtmann, October. / SUNDERN, Kulturring, October-November. / ST. LOUIS, Stein Gallery, October. Catalogue The Morrocan. / PARIS, Galerie Franck Bordas, November. / NAGOYA, Gallery Akira Ikeda, December.
1992 CHALON-SUR-SAONE, Espace des Arts, March-April. / SALZBURG, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, April-May. / NEW YORK, Leo Castelli Gallery, May. / COLOGNE, Galerie Heinz Holtmann, June-July. / PARIS, Galerie JGM, November. / PARIS, Galerie Lelong, November. / COLOGNE, Kunstation St Peter, November-January 1993.
1991 LAUSANNE, Galerie Alice Pauli, February-April. / VENICE, Galleria Il Capricorno, February-April. / NEW YORK, Leo Castelli Gallery, April. / NEW YORK, Castelli Graphics, April. / ST PAUL DE VENCE, Catherine Issert, April-May. / COLOGNE, Galerie Heinz Holtmann, June-July. / LOS ANGELES, Richard Green Gallery, June. / PARIS, Galerie de Poche, September. / BRUSSELS, Galerie Issy Brachot, October-December. Catalogue Black and Blue. / LUND, Galerie Anders Tornberg, November-December. Book The Passion.
1990 PARIS, Galerie Johanna Vermeer, February. / STOCKHOLM, Galerie Heland Wetterling, January. / SANTA MONICA, Richard Green Gallery, May. / PARIS, Galerie Enrico Navarra, May-June. / PARIS, Galerie Lelong, June. / LONDON, Gallery Runkel-Hue Williams, June-July. Catalogue. / NAPLES, Galleria Lucio Amelio, October-November. Catalogue The Stations.
1989 KYOTO SHOIN, Catalogue Stabat Mater. / LYON, Galerie Gill Favre, January-February. / NEW YORK, Leo Castelli Gallery, April. / NEW YORK, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, April, Book Faith. / HELSINKI, Galerie Kaj Forsblum, May. / PARIS, Galerie Lelong, June. / ST. LOUIS, Greenberg Gallery, September-October. / COPENHAGEN, Galerie Fauschou, October. / SALZBURG, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, September. / MADRID, Galeria de Arte Soledad Lorenzo, December. Catalogue Obra. / TRENTO, Galleria Improvvisazione Prima, December. Catalogue.
1988 STOCKHOLM, Galerie Heland Wetterling, January. / CAEN, Galerie de l’Artothèque, March. / BRUSSELS, Galerie Issy Brachot, April-May. Catalogue Œuvres sur Papier. / KARLSRUHE, Galerie Meyer-Holmeister, April-May. / COLOGNE, Kunststation St. Peter, October. / ZURICH, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, October-November. / TOKYO, AC&T Corporation. Catalogue Five Sorrowful Mysteries I,II&III.
1987 ST. LOUIS, Greenberg Gallery, January-February. / STOCKHOLM, Galerie Heland Wetterling, January. / TOKYO, Akira Ikeda Gallery, March. Catalogue Kyoto Drawings 1986. / LUND, Galerie Anders Tornberg, March. / BOSTON, Thomas Segall Gallery, April. / BRUSSELS, Galerie Issy Brachot, April. / SANTA MONICA, Maloney Gallery, April & November. / ZURICH, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, April-May. / PARIS, Galerie Maecht-Lelong, May-July. Catalogue Reperes no. 37. / SALZBURG, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, July. / NAPLES, Galleria Lucio Amelio, November. Catalogue Giallo di Napoli. / ST. PAUL DE VENCE, Galerie Catherine Issert, December.
1986 TOKYO, Akira Ikeda Gallery, January. Catalogue New Paintings. / CHICAGO, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, April. / DUSSELDORF, Galerie Denise Rene Hans Meyer, April-June. / NEW YORK, Leo Castelli Gallery, October. / NEW YORK, Castelli Graphics, October. / ATLANTA, Fay Gold Gallery. / NEW YORK, Pace Editions.
1985 LUND, Galerie Anders Tornberg, January. / STOCKHOLM, Galerie Heland Wetterling, January. / ZURICH, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, March. / NAGOYA, Akira Ikeda Gallery, April. Catalogue Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. / LOS ANGELES, Larry Gagosian Gallery, October-November.
1984 ILLINOIS, First National Bank of Belleville, March. / BOSTON, Institute of Contemporary Art, April. Catalogue Currents. / VENICE, Galleria Il Capricorno, June. / PHILADELPHIA, Institute of Contemporary Art, June-July. / NAPLES, Galleria Lucio Amelio, November.
1983 NAPLES, Galleria Lucio Amelio, February. Book Self Portraits. / AMSTERDAM, American Graffiti Gallery, February. / NEW YORK, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, November. Catalogue. / NEW YORK, Nature Morte Gallery, April. / COLOGNE, Galerie Hans-Juergen Mueller, November.
1978 ARNHEIM, Gemeentemuseum, October-December. Catalogue Series en Projecten 1976-1978. / PARIS, Galerie Christiane & Eric Germain.

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