Bay Area artist Joan Brown, who died in 1990 at age fifty-two, produced a vast body of figurative paintings with an offbeat, vernacular appeal. This exhibition at Venus Over Manhattan featured a dozen of Brown’s dazzling canvases, primarily from the 1970s, characterized by dreamily composed scenes and highly stylized figures.
Brown emerged within San Francisco’s Beat and burgeoning “Funk” art scenes of the 1960s, alongside friends such as Jay DeFeo, Bruce Conner, and Wallace Berman. She and her cohort took pride in flouting the artistic conventions dominant in New York and Los Angeles at the time, making expressive, idiosyncratic work that served as an irreverent retort to the detached slickness of Minimalism and Finish Fetish. Despite her underground credentials, Brown’s subject matter is often bracingly banal: domestic scenes, dancing couples, swimmers, animal portraits, pictures of her husband. But the allure of Brown’s work is how it unsettles viewers’ assumptions about … Read the rest