Jesse Howard & Roger Brown: Now Read On

08/06/2005 - 09/17/2005
Jesse Howard & Roger Brown: Now Read On

The H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, in collaboration with The Center for Creative Studies at The University of Missouri Kansas City and The Roger Brown Study Collection at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago proudly presents Jesse Howard & Roger Brown: Now Read On.

This innovative exhibition explores parallel ideas and conceptual junctures in the works of Jesse Howard and Roger Brown, both of whom expressed deeply-held perceptions of tension, irony, ambiguity and contradiction in American social, political and religious culture.  Jesse Howard (1885-1983) and Roger Brown (1941-1997) existed in distinctly different cultural spheres: Howard, as a self-taught artist, in his home, studio and exhibition space, which spanned both sides of a country road near Fulton, Mo., and Brown, who was raised in Alabama but lived and worked in the urban, mainstream, cultural world of Chicago.  Both were informed by the cultural and religious terrain of the South, had an affinity for popular forms of communication, shared populist points of view and were insistent on speaking their minds even though their opinions and ideas were often unpopular.  Both artists addressed the range of polarized issues of their day, which continue to have strong contemporary currency.  Each sought a greater truth, whether citing scripture to set the record straight, or by exposing fraud or bureaucracy in politics and religion.  Each drew on personal history, faith and a skewed optimism that fueled the flames of their artistic creations.

The artists first met in 1971, when Roger Brown, at the urging of his mentors in the Chicago art community, embarked on a pilgrimage to feed his creative development and find affinities within his own emerging vision.  By then, Howard had been making signs for 20 years and was old enough to be Brown’s grandfather.  Brown’s travels were inspired by an article from Art in America, written in 1986 by Greg Blasdell, which described “an unusual group of artists…who felt the need to build something original and exciting from whatever they found at hand.” Jesse Howard was one of those artists.

Comprised of a series of thematically-conceived tableaux, Now Read On features individual paintings by Brown paired with installations of hand-painted signs and objects by Howard, addressing those same topics and themes from a rather dissimilar perspective.

Jesse Howard & Roger Brown: Now Read On will travel to the Betty Rymer Gallery at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from October 4 through November 18, 2005. The exhibition is accompanied by a 108 page catalog, published by UMKC, featuring essays by the exhibition’s co-curators, Jerry Bleem, Andrei Codrescu, Eleanor Heartney, and Lucy Lippard.

In addition, a public symposium hosted by the Center for Creative Studies at The University of Missouri Kansas City entitled, Behind the Creative Process, will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2005, at the Spencer theatre, UMKC.  Participants include art historian and cultural critic Eleanor Heartney, Brooke Anderson, Curator of Contemporary Art at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, and Chicago artist Karl Wirsum, a contemporary of Roger Brown and an artist associated with the Chicago Imagists.

The exhibition and accompanying catalog are a collaborative project of the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, the Center for Creative Studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City, and the Roger Brown Study Collection at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It is curated by Raechell Smith, Director of the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, and Lisa Stone, Director of the Roger Brown Study Collection at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The project received generous support from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, the H&R Block Foundation, UMKC Center for Creative Studies, and the Missouri Arts Council.

Also on view at the Artspace in the Roger L. & Joni Cohen Resource Room was the exhibition Chicago Style: Imagery & Influence drawn from the Kansas City Art Institute’s collection highlighting Chicago artists, many of whom were contemporaries of Roger Brown and were similarly influenced by popular culture, self-taught artists, and a range of unlikely sources. The exhibition was curated by Heather Lustfeldt, Assistant Curator, and featured the work of Tony Fitzpatrick, Ed Paschke, H.C. Westermann, Robert Lostutter, Peter Saul, and Roger Brown.

For generous support of the 2005-2006 exhibition series at the Artspace, the Kansas City Art Institute gratefully acknowledges the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and the H&R Block Foundation.

Press

Press Release

Jesse Howard & Roger Brown: Now Read On
opens at H&R Block Artspace at KCAI
July 22, 2005
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