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Joan Brown at Parker Gallery


At Parker Gallery, a rare collection of works by Joan Brown is a delightful foray into the artist’s early work. Brown, who began making work in the late ’50s Bay Area art scene, became known for a style of flat figuration — paintings in which female figures (often self-portraits) float within skewed perspective backgrounds and loud geometric patterns. One such work is included in the Parker show (Running at McAteer Park,1976), but the majority of the show is dedicated to moodier works from the ‘50s and ‘60s, which delight with thick, impasto paint application and surreal compositions. 

Many of the scenes are pulled from Brown’s own day-to-day life, like Reaching for that Chicken at Jack’s from 1960, a work that appears abstract yet evokes a feeling of reaching across a table, with a pizza slice-like shape floating in the foreground. After a prolonged look at the crinkled impasto and delightful texture in the small painting Two Birds (1962), a loose image of two birds in profile slowly emerges, depicted by the artist’s marks, made into layers of thick paint. These and other works round out a surprising exhibition which celebrates the career of a notable artist who was fearless in following her own style, even as it shifted over the years.

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Photo: Joan Brown, The End of a Crazy Summer & Other Personal Reflections (installation view) (2021). Image courtesy of Parker Gallery, Los Angeles and Modern Art West, Sonoma. Photos: Paul Salveson.