Pin It
Favorite

Return to Form 

Art Review: Ray Brown at the Vermont Supreme Court

click to enlarge “San Gimignano #1,” oil on canvas
  • “San Gimignano #1,” oil on canvas

Italy has inspired touring artists since the Renaissance, and Vermont painter Ray Brown is no exception: A new series of works, now on view in the Vermont Supreme Court lobby, is based on his travels in Tuscany. They’re the main component of Brown’s solo exhibition of recent canvasses.

Tuscany includes Florence, Pisa, Siena and dozens of other picturesque towns that Brown refers to in the titles of his paintings. The images are reduced to rectangles and squares of color. Brown uses large brushes to layer hue over blended hue, patching together exhilarating, abstracted landscapes. He’s been using this streamlined approach since experiencing a stroke in 2007.

“I needed to change the way I painted for a way that enabled me to continue to enjoy the process,” Brown writes. “For me, the process of applying paint is the thing that I enjoy the most. This way of reacting to the real world is a way to keep the process fresh and exciting for me.”

Brown’s paintings are surely fresh and exciting to most viewers, as well.

“San Gimignano #1” is a 20-by-30-inch oil referring to a hill town renowned for its medieval towers. An abstract rendition of one such tower, bearing one red and two brown clocks, stands teetering in the center of the composition. The tower stands against a rich, deep Phthalo-blue sky. Brown separates the blocks of color with lines of different weights. While the pieces are essentially geometric abstractions, they are soft edged and have an organic feel.

The internecine Italian conflict of Guelph versus Ghibelline, begun in the 12th century, is referenced in another group of Brown’s towers. “Guelph Towers #2” has four structures protruding into a light green sky. In “Ghibelline Towers,” a vertical composition with a higher horizon line, the towers loom in a brown-yellow sky. The blocks of the latter image are smaller and more tightly packed.

Other Italian-inspired pieces have more color. “Tuscany #2,” which includes blue patches, is arranged like farms seen from the air. Brown’s colors are closely calibrated, and the blues are slightly varied so that individual patches stand on their own. Nothing is rote in Brown’s work; every brushstroke seems like a new discovery.

In addition to the Tuscan group, the exhibit features Vermont paintings with childlike house shapes nestled in the squares. “Vermont #6” is a 20-by-24-inch oil with two gray houses positioned along a top line of the piece. Below, their forms are repeated in a slightly darker value as shadows.

“Vermont #7” presents a lavender house within earth-toned geometric shapes. Nearly all the lines in the piece are slightly angled from the edges of the picture plane, making them seem like the swaying boards of an ancient barn.

Brown is co-owner of the Drawing Board art store in Montpelier, which is currently displaying a selection of his earlier watercolor landscapes. Though very nice and technically competent, these small watercolors lack the exquisite originality of his more recent body of work. Less is more in Brown’s abstractions, and his use of color, invention of forms and paint application are arguably superior to his techniques in the more conventional, prestroke works. His nearly 40 new paintings in the Supreme Court Lobby are uniquely masterful and vibrant.

Want to see for yourself?

Ray Brown, geometric-inspired paintings. Supreme Court Lobby, Montpelier. Through August 30.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Marc Awodey

  • Ground Crew
  • Ground Crew

    Art Review: Wendy James, Lynn Rupe and Carolyn Hack, Burlington International Airport
    • Dec 14, 2011
  • Net Gain
  • Net Gain

    Art Review: Barbara Wagner, Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery
    • Dec 7, 2011
  • Branching Out
  • Branching Out

    Art Review: “Trees,” Bryan Memorial Gallery
    • Nov 23, 2011
  • More »

About The Author

Marc Awodey

Marc Awodey

Bio:
Painter, poet, writer, musician, guerilla publisher and numismatist Marc Awodey, 1960-2012, was the Seven Days arts critic for more than a decade before his death at age 51. We all miss him.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Art Review

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
e-newsletters:

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation