Roger Brown: This Boy’s Own Story
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 » By James Connolly » See more posts from Uncategorized
I began working at the Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC) in Fall 2010, which was also my first semester as a grad student at SAIC’s Dual Degree Program in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism and Arts Administration and Policy. In the winter of 2010, as a TA at the RBSC, I worked on a project to create high resolution scans of Roger Brown’s work from the early 1970s to 1997, nearly 900 images. The privilege of intimately studying each artwork became an engrossing experience, altering my understanding of Brown’s work on a monumental level. Spending hours scanning and editing, I began to notice that the subject of sexuality was a steady current running throughout Brown’s entire career. The ripple effect of that early observation has led me on a two-year professional and academic exploration into the subject of sexuality in Brown’s life and work, the result of which is the upcoming exhibition, Roger Brown: This Boy’s Own Story, opening August 25th 2012 at SAIC’s Sullivan Gallery’s.
Roger Brown, City Nights: All-You-Wanted-to-Know-or-Don’t-Want-to-Know-and-were-Afraid-to- Ask A Closet Painting (subtitle supplied by Barbara Bowman, 1978, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 in. Roger Brown Estate Painting Collection, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph: William H. Bengtson.
Brown’s early paintings and sculptures from the 1970s often depict landscapes and architectural scenes that are inlayed with silhouetted figures engaging, witnessing, or responding to sexual acts. In many works the landscapes themselves, or landscapes and features within them, are compositionally erotic in nature.
Brown’s works from the 1980s and 90s, like the painting shown below, boldly confront cultural prejudices about homosexuality and HIV and the cultural attack on gay culture and life.
Part of my early academic scholarship in this project derived from a graduate class on Queer Theory, lead by Frederic Moffet, where my research concentrated on the final ten years of Brown’s life, specifically through studying the extensive archival materials at the RBSC and their relationship to his work. Inspired from that early research, Roger Brown: This Boy’s Own Story includes archival materials that provide deeper insight into the works that will be on view. I see this exhibition as a means to let the challenges and questions found in the archive and artworks have voice, so that the SAIC and Chicago community can reshape the layers of conversations that Roger Brown’s work evokes. I intend to use this blog as an incubator for further discussion about artist’s house museums, archives, and the borderlines (or lack there of) between public and private life.
An important component to this project is my search for some of Brown’s paintings in private collections that we currently lack information about. Calling this my “most wanted” list- I hope that if anyone reading this blog is the proud owner of any of the Roger Brown’s listed below they will contact the Roger Brown Study Collection, firstname.lastname@example.org!
“Most Wanted” Roger Brown Works in Private Collections
2012 is an exciting year for Roger Brown, and along with Lips of Gossip at Sullivan Galleries, Roger Brown’s work will be on view concurrently at three other exhibitions in Fall 2012:
This blog is going to be an ongoing place to chronicle, ponder, and celebrate the process leading up to the opening of Lips of Gossip, so spend the summer with me and visit again soon.
By: Kate Pollasch