Frederick J. Brown, American (1945 - 2012)

Frederick Brown

Frederick J. Brown (February 6, 1945 – May 5, 2012) was a Chicago-raised artist. His paintings draw on many sources, including his African-American, Seminole and Choctaw ancestry, his religious upbringing, and the folklore of the South. He referenced religious, historical and urban themes in his work, but was especially noted for his numerous portraits of jazz and blues artists. In 1988, Brown had the largest retrospective by a Western artist in the People's Republic of China, and he is the only Western artist to have had an exhibition at China's national museum in Tienanmen Square.

Frederick James Brown was born to, mother, Geneva Brown and, father, Andrew Bentley in Greensboro, Georgia on February 6, 1945. Soon the young family moved to Chicago, during the Second Great Migration, because of greater opportunity in Chicago as opposed to Georgia at the time. Brown was raised in a Methodist household near the steel mills on Chicago's South-side, which at the time was a working-class neighborhood comprised Eastern-European Immigrants, Hispanics, and African-Americans.

Brown attended Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) and studied architecture. After learning the fundamentals of architecture at CVS, Brown attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois (SIU). Brown graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1968 with Bachelor's degree in Art and Psychology . At SIU Brown was an assistant instructor of art and was included the University's 1968 group exhibition.

In 1970 Brown had his first one-man show at the Illinois Bell Telephone Gallery in Chicago. That same year Brown moved to New York City's SoHo, a neighborhood which at the time home to many artist and musicians. Brown embarked o the development of theories combining visual art and music with jazz musicians Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton, who was a childhood friend of Brown's. These collaborative multi-media efforts culminated in 1972–73 when Brown wrote, directed, and produced the play entitled Be Aware, a production combining visual arts, dance, and poetry.

In addition to painting and executing commissioned works, in 1974 Brown taught African and Afro-America Art History at York College, City University of New York. The following year, in 1975, Brown was the guest of the President of Liberia and completed three major commissioned paintings for the Government of Liberia. Additionally lectured at the University of Liberia, where Brown attracted tremendous attention through his artistic activities.

In 1977 Brown produced two video works, "Stolen Moments" and "Portrait of a Painter". "Stolen Moments" presented the dance of three leading New York dancer, while "Portrait of a Painter" showed Brown himself in the act of painting a large two-piece work. Music by Anthony Braxton served as the background to both projects. In 1978 Brown commenced a series of paintings inspired by and based on Braxton's orchestral music. The following year he employed his architectural skills in the design and construction of two artists' studios, each based on the premise of architecture as sculpture.

Brown taught art at the Central College of Fine Arts in Beijing for periods in 1985 and 1987. Furthermore, during this time Brown was the subject of a short film which aired on Chinese national television and documented his first visit. In June 1988, Brown's exhibition in China's the Museum of the Chinese Revolution commenced. The show featured 100 of Brown's expressionistic paintings and drawings created from 1968 to 1988. Brown's exhibition was considered a success and made him the first Western artist to exhibit his works in the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing.

In 1993, Brown unveiled "the Assumption of Mary" at Xavier University of Louisiana.The painting is currently the largest religious work of art on canvas at three-stories tall. A year later Brown unveiled "the History of Art", a series of 110 paintings chronicling the progression of art through human history, through his own personal interpretation. To this day Brown's "History of Art" is on display in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design's Café Sebastienne (named after Brown's daughter Sebastienne).

Brown is well known for his Blues & Jazz Series, which began in 1987 and ended in 2010 with the portrait "Jimi Hendrix". The series includes nearly 300 works, the most notable of which include: "Piano Men pts. 1&2", "Ornett Coleman", "Louis Armstrong", "Muddy Waters", and "Billy Holiday".

In September 2008 Brown gathered fellow artist along with jazz musicians, dancers and poets at Cornell University for a symposium on the Creative Movement of the 1970s of which Brown, along with others, spearheaded. The list of speakers included: bassist Charlie Haden, saxophonists Henry Threadgill, Sam Rivers and James Jordan, artist Tony Ramos, poet and activist Felipe Luciano, songwriter Malcolm Mooney, writer and music critic Stanley Crouch, designer Jean Claude Samuel and many others. Brown was quoted saying "Charlie (Haden) said 'Hey man you ought to move to New York, this is going to be the largest collection of musicians, poets, painters, artist in history. It's going to be called SoHo.'"

Brown married modern dancer and fellow artist Megan Bowman in 1979. The wedding took place at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan. On August 9, 1985 Brown and Bowman had their first child, daughter, Sebastienne Nicole Brown in New York City. In 1989, due to his daughter's asthma, Brown moved his family to Carefree, Arizona and spilt his time between New York and Arizona. Six years later, Brown and Bowman had their second child, son, Bentley Embree Brown on May 19, 1995 in Carefree, Arizona.

One-man Exhibitions
2006–2009 Twenty Jazz Portraits, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

2004–2005 Harriet Tubman- Cornell University Ithaca, New York

2003 "Frederick J. Brown: Portraits in Jazz, Blues and Other Icons" -The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York

Portrait of President William Jefferson Clinton- (Unveiled and accepted by President Clinton in New York, New York)

“Frederick J. Brown: Portraits in Jazz, Blues and Other Icons” American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Missouri

2002 “Frederick J. Brown: Portraits in Jazz, Blues and Other Icons” -Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanasas City, Missouri

2001 “History of Saint Louis” -United Missouri Bank (12 ft x 130 ft mural)

2000 Blues paintings -Lake’s Art Center, Okoboji, Iowa

1999 University of Iowa

"Bleeker Street" Frederick J. Brown 1981
1998 University of Nebraska, Sheldon Gallery

1997 Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, D.C.

Arthur Rogers Gallery, New Orleans

Portrait of Lionel Hampton for the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

1996 The Discovery Museum -Bridgeport Connecticut

1995 Echoes of New Orleans, Arthur Rogers Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

1995 A Life of Christ, - Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

Spirits of Spirit Lake, Lakes Art Center, Okoboji, Iowa

1994 “The History of Art” -Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri

1993 “The Assumption of Mary” -Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana

1992 “The Magic Man” -Gallery 10, Santa Fe, New Mexico

1991 The National Museum of American Art -Washington, D.C.

1989 The Graduate Theological Union -The Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, Berkley, California

“The Blues by Frederick Brown” -Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York

1988 “A Retrospective” The National Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Tian An Men Square, Beijing, China

1987 Tomasulo Gallery -Union County College, Cranford, New Jersey

Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

Greenville County Museum of Art – Greenville, South Carolina

Miami Dade Community College Museum -Miami, Florida

1986 Jan Turner Gallery -Los Angeles, California

1985 Hokin-Kaufman Gallery -Chicago, Illinois

Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

Davis-McClain Gallery – Los Angeles, California

1983 Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

1975 Noah Goldowsky Gallery -New York, New York

1974 Jane Haslem Gallery -Washington D.C.

1972 Liberia Internationale -Milan, Italy

1970 Illinois Bell Telephone Gallery -Chicago, Illinois

Selected group exhibitions
1996 National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Kaleidoscope

1994 National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Free Within Ourselves: African-American Art from the Museum Collection. A major exhibition celebrating the achievements of African- American artists.

1993 Pane Webber Gallery -New York City, New York. Selections from the Studio Museum of Art.

IBM Gallery -New York City, New York Free Within Ourselves Traveling Exhibition from the National Museum of Art.

1991 Recent Acquisitions -The Studio Museum in Harlem. New York

1990 Recent Acquisitions -The National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

1989 American Resources: Selected Works of African American Artists -Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York, New York -Traveled to Nashville Tennessee: The Carl Van Vechten Gallery of Fine Arts, Fisk University, Downtown Arts Gallery at Church Street Centre: Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery.

1988 Exhibition in the People's Republic of China Cultural Ambassador

The 1980s: A New Generation -The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Revelations: Drawings in America -Art Gallery of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia -traveled to Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, : Gallerija Josp-Bepo Benkovic, Herceg Novs Vnuetnicka Galerija, Zagred, Yugoslavia; Mueseu de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville; Washington Irving Center, Madrid, Spain; Sociedade Nacional de Belas Ares, Lisbon, Portugal; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, 1989; Norton Gallery of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

1986-87 The Foundation Veranneman Invites Marlborough -Krushoutem, Belgium

1986 Arkansas Arts Center -Little Rock, Arkansas, National Drawing Invitational

Butler Institute of American Art -Youngstown, Ohio, 50th National Midyear Exhibition

Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

Rutgers University -New Brunswick, New Jersey

Marlborough Gallery -Tokyo, Japan

"New York New York" Frederick J. Brown 1980
1985 Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

1984 Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

The Rufino Tamayo Museum -Mexico City, Mexico

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale -Fort Lauderdale, Florida, New Narrative Painting

1983 Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art -Ridgefield, Connecticut

Recent Acquisitions Ten New Narrative Paintings -Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

1983 Marlborough Gallery -New York, New York

1979 Recent Acquisitions Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

1977 Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art -Ridgefield, Connecticut

1976 University of Indiana -Bloomington, Indiana

Noah Goldowsky Gallery -New York, New York

The Museum of Drawers -Bern, Switzerland, Traveling Exhibition 1974

SoHo Center for Visual Arts -New York, New York

American Federation of the Arts Traveling Exhibition: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama: Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California; Kip Gallery, Indiana; University of Pennsylvania; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor; Cummer Gallery of Art, Jacksonville, Florida; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign

1973 Recent Acquisitions – Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut

1972 Contemporary Reflections 1972-73 -Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut

1971 Gallery Cinque -New York, New York

Deson- Zaks Gallery – Chicago, Illinois

1970 Flats Fixed Gallery -New York, New York

1968 Southern Illinois University -Carbondale, Illinois

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