When the Roger Brown Study Collection in Chicago mounted the HAHS travelling exhibition, it augmented the show with additional works of art, a slide show in the gallery, and an on-line brochure. The Roger Brown Study Collection, established by Brown to preserve his home and studio environment as a teaching tool, is affiliated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). The HAHS exhibition, retitled “Compare and Contrast – 39 American Artists,” explores the roster of HAHS sites through the lens of Roger Brown’s ideas, critiques, and related works, in hopes of inspiring rigorous comparing and contrasting by SAIC’s faculty, students and our guests.
“Compare and Contrast” is anchored by a robust painting of zinnias by HAHS artist Clementine Hunter of Melrose Plantation; the painting represents Roger Brown’s fervent commitment to the work of artists who worked outside of the academic mainstream. Also on view, Brown’s Ring of Fire (Buffalo Bill in Hell) directs attention to representations of the American West and historical attitudes toward Native Americans, topics portrayed by other HAHS artists, such as Grace Hudson, Eanger Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp. Ever the observer and critic of the art world and its history, Brown made paintings referencing artists in the HAHS consortium. The exhibition made connections between works by Brown and works by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock. Color reproductions of six paintings were mixed in with the black and white portraits that originally constituted the exhibition. Brown dined on Russel Wright American Modern dinnerware (in his modernist home in Michigan) and a coral dinner plate punctuates the installation. A photo of Brown astride a camel was placed next to the photo of Frederic Church astride a camel, to highlight the importance of travel to distant lands for historical and contemporary artists.
“Compare and Contrast” included a slideshow with an introduction to each artist and their home and studio, as well as artworks by HAHS artists represented in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. A guide with Art Institute floor plans identified 62 artworks by HAHS artists that were on view in the galleries, offering a kind of scavenger hunt through the museum, to works as diverse as Thomas Cole’s Distant View of Niagara Falls (1830), to an untitled work by Donald Judd (1968), to Jackson Pollock’s The Key (1946), and many more.
A pamphlet accompanying the exhibition has been posted on-line, and is available here.
“Compare and Contrast – 39 American Artists” was on view at the Roger Brown Study Collection in Chicago from January 22 to May 8, 2015.