Petey Brown's swimmers are humble, sometimes humorous. But as they
float and swim, relaxing and struggling in the water, they evoke
thoughts of the metaphysical.
In Pink Purple a head pops out of deep indigo. The body fades into purple and the reflection of subtle warmth spreads around it. The left arm reaches back as the right arm crawls forward, leading our eyes to a tiny dab of pink at the edge of the canvas. Is it the toe of his companion gliding away?
All that is left of the figure in Shadow Splash is the shadow floating beneath the surface, bleeding a cool blue green into the warm pink water. We are reminded of the silent aloneness of swimming. Color, echoing off the waves, replaces sound.
Color-field painters shunned narrative to immerse the viewer in
color. Petey Brown embraces the story. It is, after all, the
painter's story - small, vulnerable individuals entrusting
themselves to their medium as swimmers entrust themselves to the
Exhibition: Petey Brown: High Tide Start date: 20 Jun 2017 | End date: 08 Jul 2017 Presenter: Bowery Gallery link Venue: 530 West 25th Street, 4th Floor, New York
City, NY, USA Image: Petey Brown, Under, 2015-16, oil on canvas, 30
× 24 inches, courtesy of the artist
At its inception, Impressionism extended what was known at the time as Realism – Courbet’s (and others’) jettisoning of Romanticism and Classicism alike in favor of making paintings truer to the appearance of real life. The nature of the Impressionist project was optical. As Cézanne admitted in exasperation to Vollard, “Monet is only an eye, but my God what an eye!”
But it’s in the nature of art for its mechanisms to make themselves felt with ever increasing force. Late Monet was only realist in a manner of speaking. The lily pond did shimmer in the morning mist, no doubt. But the paint told the story, not in the form of documentary, but parable.
Fast-forward a hundred-plus years. The Impressionist method – figuration executed as an array of lively daubs – is now an long-absorbed item of technical vocabulary. Like any vocabulary, it can be used in contemporary ways. That’s where Petey Brown picks up.
Her innovation isn’t just to introduce swimmers into Monet’s nacreous depictions
of water, horizon line hiked over the top of the picture, although that in itself is
a delightful notion. It’s also to use the daub in a notational or graphic way, not
so much to show what the swimmers looked like paddling around in the surf,
but to mark their very presence: let it be known, a human was here. The figure in
Alone in the Sea (2016) is recognizable as such through her raspberry bathing cap
and fragmented silhouette. It doesn’t look like someone observed, but someone
abstracted, a sign for an awed recollection of the ocean.
Realizing that fragments would reconstitute
the whole in the viewer’s imagination, Brown
pushed that aspect of her work until the
waters began sprouting feet. In Floating
(2016), ten toes (and a nose to boot) arise
from waters painted cobalt and lichen green.
The orange in the sky indicates dusk, but the
twin suns setting into the ocean are the feet
themselves, glowing hot with radiance. Feet,
Yellow (2016) advances still further. All that the
viewer can see of the bather are the upturned
feet and forelegs of his diving form, drawn with a dark magenta line. Brown has
raised the color temperature past what we encounter in real life – ambers and golds
that apply the memory of hot summer sands to the ocean itself.
Given larger scales to work with, such as the diptychs in this series, Brown extends
her vocabulary into pictures that are decorative in the profound sense, bathing caps
punctuating an endless, pearlescent sea as a sparse pattern of colored dots. They
are as evocative and charming as a Rinpa folding screen. Conscientiously pursuing
a handful of cherished affections for method and subject, Brown has unearthed
William Eckhardt Kohler has written a wonderful catalog essay for my show at A.I.R. Gallery (April 3 - 27, 2014), below:
As a creative act, painting shares characteristics with many other art forms; music, theater, poetry, dance, which can serve as rich analogies for what it is like to paint. Petey Brown has a long history of utilizing dance as an apt metaphor for the physical graces and challenges of making paintings. She has found in The Tango, the subject of her most recent body of work, a perfect vehicle to address the dynamics of forming images in paint. The Tango is a dance form thematically driven by the nature of aggression, submission and domination, but also centered in the heart and the passion of connection.
ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE - Advocating for women in the arts since 1972.
April 3 - 27, 2014
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 3rd from 6-9pm
A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to announce Tango, an installation of oil paintings and works on paper, by Petey Brown in Gallery II. This exhibition will be on view from April 3 – 27, 2014. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 3rd from 6-9pm.
The paintings in Tango are based on images of Argentinian danc- ers, derived from observing videos of this intensely sensual prac- tice. Small gouache drawings serve as the inspiration for the larger paintings, which are oil on linen. The works are painterly, colorful, and exuberant, depicting the strong emotions conveyed in the dance.
As William Eckhardt Kohler writes in the catalogue essay for this show: Petey Brown shows "...a love of lush color and paint. A
romance with the mundane moment – for while the tango is romantic and ritualistic, a performance with layers of sexual and power subtext, it is the sense of the dancers as people that prevails. They are taken up, subsumed by the dance, just as the painter is subsumed and taken up by the paint, by its inherent beauty, by the ritual moment of enactment; and finally seduced by its inherent beauty and capacity for transformation to become something more than who we are.... In Brown’s paintings the dance serves as a metaphor for being in the moment and the immediacy of the paint IS the moment for the artist."
Perry Meisel has written: "(Petey Brown’s) pictures are kinetic, not static. Her figures have their counterpart in her technique, which resembles that of a sister art of pop music. Her images are syncopated images in an exact musical way: what one sees emerges against a background of time past. Like the classical downbeat that one hears in rock or jazz only after the brash, syncopated upbeat that follows it, Brown’s figures move forward because they leave some- thing behind."
Petey Brown lives and works in New York. She has shown in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Florida, and Chicago and is represented in museums, corporate collections, the Library of Congress, and private collections throughout the country. She has done commissions for hotels in Florida, California, and Hawaii based on a series of figures engaged in beach activities. This is her first show at A.I.R. Gallery.
A.I.R. Gallery is located at 111 Front Street, #228 in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gallery hours: Wed. - Sun., 11am McFarland at 212-255-6651 or firstname.lastname@example.org For Immediate Release WWW.AIRGALLERY.ORG