James Brown

Galleria Lucio Amello

The images in James Brown’s earlier work were surrounded by a sand-gray background; most of the pieces here, however, show images scratched into black surfaces. One has to search out the form within the blackness—uniform, impenetrable, yet vibrant with a tension between the shiny and the opaque. The blackness extends over the entire canvas and hides in its messy shelter a swarm of signs, neither drawn nor painted, but incised into the thick, compact paint as though into wax. Cracks and scars appear as faces and figures, an arabesque of images in the negative. And these negative forms reveal that the underlying background is multicolored and alive with light, although it is difficult to see through the dense filter.

With these works Brown investigates the deepest roots of color and sign, banishing both to a limbo of confinement. The paintings are in a way more conceptual than figurative,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the February 1985 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.