Dolby Chadwick Gallery is proud to honor and celebrate the work of beloved Bay Area artist Charley Brown. Charley passed away in November 2018 after a long battle with cancer. Until his last day, Charley maintained that art was his sanctuary, his love. This exhibition—his third solo show with DCG—is a tribute to the man, the artist and his art.
Just like colors or tones, shapes express different emotions, each carrying their own distinct character and sensation. In Brown’s work, shapes range from elemental to intricate, geometrical to organic. His bold, crisply defined shapes—set in stark contrast against a white background—balance and counter balance each other. They are broken up by deliberate little imperfections, empty spots, speckles, flecks and streaks in the paint that lend a tonal, intimate quality to the rhythm. The result is compositions that feel as harmonious and rhythmical as a rhapsody (Brown sometimes calls his work “visualized music”) and as delicate and balanced as a mobile.
To achieve this affect, Brown has developed a unique method. Several layers of modeling paste are applied to the canvas, sanded down for smoothness and then reapplied. Once the surface has the right texture, he begins by drawing geometrical lines and semicircles, along which he then spreads layers of paint with a brayer (a small roller), a technique he borrowed from monotyping. The deliberate imperfections are created by an intermittent lifting of the brayer, with the tip of a finger or simply through the texture on the canvas. What appear to be different colors, often are just tonal variations of the same one, created by varying thicknesses in paint.
While the process demands great technical precision and skill, it is creatively guided almost entirely by intuition. “I don’t follow a formula or a concept. Rather, I can feel my paintings vibrating, pulsating,” Brown says. “My job as an artist is to listen to the energy and guide it through the painting in a way that is harmonious, fulfilled.”
According to Brown, a true art experience is an opening. The moment we are entranced by a piece of music or, say, enraptured by a dance performance, we touch upon the energy that is at the heart of creation. “This is the moment I want to capture,” Brown says, “this is the magic.” Painting, to him, not only captures that moment but expands it through time and through the audience, creating its own realm of boundless joy and beauty.
Born in 1945 in Barstow, CA, Brown studied at Doxiades School of Design in Athens, Greece, and at the California College of Art before graduating with an MA in Art from Humboldt University in Arcata, CA. In a career spanning over four decades, he has had solo exhibitions in galleries across the United States and Europe. Brown has also painted murals commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C as well by the city of San Francisco, Stanford University and others. He lived with his partner Mark Evans in San Francisco.