Monumental Figures Rise


"Everyman Series No. 1"

Local artist Keith Brownlee is exhibiting at the Zhou B Art Center. Brownlee has lived and worked in Wicker Park since the nineties. He has innovated a process in painting using layer upon layer of resin producing compositions that bare greater resemblance to sculpture than painting. His focus is the nude figure inspired by yoga and meditation. The compositions resonate with spiritual transcendence.



In "Everyman Series No. 1" the power of the figure is reminiscent of the Kollwitz drawing "Women holding dead child." The woman is curled into herself, retreating into the internal space of self-reflection. Brownlee talks about how his father used to make them meditate or do Tai Chi for one or two hours every evening and how this is at the root of where he begins his compositions. He captures his figures in this meditative state, the gaze always averted. They are like a Rodin sculpted into the resin, the lines defining the three dimensional form. The sense of proportion and scale is faultless.

In a new series entitled Everyman he explores the male nude, the composition and direction of light in these works are exquisite, capturing the essence of a moment when someone is about to be triumphant or reflecting on the past moment. Like when the Bulls score one doesn't want them to retain the exhilaration of winning but to focus on the next win. These works really depict the focused mind and body working in unison. In "Everyman" the figure is depicted from the waist up, the light sculpting each muscle of the person. Brownlee always works with a limited palette and in these pieces he uses black and white with a touch of cobalt to highlight the form. This limited palette accentuates the sculptural quality of the figures formed in resin.


"Rag Time"

In "Rag Time", Brownlee is celebrating life; the three figures in the foreground are dancing and playing music while another gazes on from a far. Is this the artist, the observer or the voyeur? Again, the eyes are averted but the engagement with each other stages a dynamic in the composition that is infective. The infection is life and celebration. The saxophone is sculpted and treated with gold leaf, mother of pearl is inlaid for detail and fabric, wire mesh is used to create the texture of the dresses flowing to the rhythm, to the rhythm, to the rhythm of the beat. The music that resonates from this painting is jazz, the music of human spiritual transcendence. The search for the mental transcendence in Brownlee's work is a constant inspiration and resonates throughout his paintings.


"Untitled Figure"

The work fuses the aesthetic tradition of Renaissance sculpture and twentieth century figurative painting. The Everyman Series could be considered an American Freud yet Brownlee focuses on form as opposed to flesh. He would do well to consider scale, as that would really emphasize the sculptural monumental quality that is evoked in the materialism of the work. Narrowing into the figure like a Freud would really enhance the compositions. But the fluidity of drawing is exceptional. I look forward to seeing more ambitious pieces larger in scale that really develop perspective and depict his talent for drawing. Brownlee's ability to celebrate the essence of existence in these figurative pieces are evocative of Michelangelo's figures in the Sistine Chapel, He is a sculptor that paints.

Brownlee's exhibit opened on Fri., May 20 and will be shown at the Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th Street thru Mon., May 23 and every third Friday of the month throughout the Summer, 2011.

Photos by Sarah Tilotta



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