Christopher Brown

Part of what any artist is trying to do is to create a situation in a painting that is revealing and mysterious at the same time as a metaphor for the curiosity that leads one to make a picture in the first place.

Born in 1951 on a Marine Corps base, Christopher Brown grew up collecting historical photographs. Enthralled by these frozen moments in time, which once imprinted become disconnected from reality, Brown uses art as a means to reexamine photographic documentation.  His work draws from personal recollection and historical images; he desires to add a human quality to the process of recording history.  Brown says of his work that “[combining] memories of different times into one image, as we do in our minds, is one of the things I am involved in—not simply what life looks like, but what our memory of life looks like.”

Brown is primarily a painter, but has used printmaking as an important tool throughout his career. He began teaching at the University of Virginia, Richmond in 1980, and at that time, he started experimenting with etching as a way to enhance his controlled painting style.  He describes the technique as a form of “super drawing” containing powerful spontaneity. This is apparent in his early etchings; Three Finger Model (1980), a crosshatched image of a childhood baseball glove, and The Presidents Series (1982-84), a collection of expressionistic faces.  He extended his printmaking enthusiasm into woodcut at Experimental Workshop, New York, in 1986 and lithography when he was asked to create a piece for the Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, in 1990.

In 1991, Brown was invited to Crown Point Press to revisit etching, and over the next few years he completed several projects there. Etching involves incising images on the surface of copper plates. The malleable quality of the plates enables them to be reworked while keeping a visual record of the image’s progression. With an impressionable surface and the ability to be re-inked in different colors, the plates give the artist complete freedom to rework his imagery. By communicating his ideas using intaglio, Brown recognized that his “work relies on the relationship between things that are stark and dark and other things that are subtle and delicate. Color proofing is crucial and subtle distinctions of color are really important.” Brown layers plates and uses omniscient viewpoints in his prints in order to investigate the ambiguous relationships found in masses of figures. He explores this concept through crowded scenes of sailors, soldiers, travelers, trains and birds.  Blending realism and abstraction in his etchings allows him to physically and symbolically uncover his remembered subjects.

Brown lives and works in Berkeley, California. He earned his B.F.A. at the University of Illinois and his M.F.A. at the University of California, Davis. He has exhibited in galleries across the United States, including Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco; Edward Thorp Gallery, New York; and Andria Friesen Gallery, Seattle. His work is in the public collections of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others.

–Courtney Sennish

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