The Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s latest exhibit at St. Thomas University’s Yellow Box Gallery features newly acquired portraits by Frederick J. Brown.
The latest exhibit by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery highlights the work of prominent American artist Frederick J. Brown, whose exploration of the relationship between music and painting resulted in hundreds of portraits featuring some of the greatest jazz and blues musicians in history including B.B. King, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong.
Legends of Jazz! Portraits by Frederick J. Brown from the Permanent Collection of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery is currently on display at the Yellow Box Gallery, St. Thomas University.
“Frederick J. Brown is an important American artist who actively drew a lot of artistic inspiration from his African-American heritage,” said exhibit curator Meredith Briden. “He was motivated to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans, especially musicians, who enriched the lives of all peoples. He began painting these portraits in the 1980s and by the time he passed away in 2012 he had painted more than 300 musical portraits.”
Brown’s works are featured in permanent collections across North America including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Yorks and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri.
This current exhibit features portraits of jazz greats John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Hodges, Louis Armstrong, Dextor Gordon and Oscar Peterson.
Legends of Jazz! is the second exhibit programmed for the Yellow Box Gallery located on the third floor of McCain Hall on the university campus.
“With the exhibitions at the Yellow Box Gallery, we are striving to exhibit works of art that connect to subjects and ideas that are relevant and worthy of discussion,” said Briden. “The idea of showing Frederick J. Brown’s work seemed like a good fit because it was aligned with this aim.”
This show opened February 25 and was programmed in conjunction with Black History Month.
“Black History Month is an important annual observance that encourages us to acknowledge the unique struggles and experiences of African-American people in North America,” said Briden, “and it also gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and culture of African-American people. As an artist, Frederick J. Brown was motivated to celebrate his African-American heritage. One of the ways that he was able to do this was by painting portraits of celebrated African-American musicians who made important contributions to their respective genres. This exhibition is about more than just the works of art, it also celebrates the jazz genre and highlights the important African-American people who contributed so much to it. And, with this aim comes all sorts of important educational opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to the more obvious connection to fine art classes, this exhibition will have value for students in the music program and students studying American history.”
Jeffery Spalding, senior curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and director of the Yellow Box Gallery was instrumental in bringing this exhibit to life.
“We specifically sought out the work of Frederick Brown and this set of six works,” said Spalding. “We solicited these works as potential donations for this expressed purpose. We entered into discussions with collectors across the country who have championed his work. It was my privilege to know the artist and to visit him in his studio in New York and later in Arizona. Over time, we can aspire to attract additional fine things by the artist; for now we are gratified and proud that we have these terrific examples to represent his achievement courtesy of a Vancouver donor’s generosity.”
A large part of the Gallery’s relationship with St. Thomas University is rightfully centered on education. Exhibits at the Yellow Box Gallery are planned and developed with greater themes in mind and Legends of Jazz! is no exception.
“In this instance, we made observation of the fact of a vibrant music program operating in the same building as the gallery,” said Spalding. “Selecting an exhibition topic that speaks directly to those involved in multiple disciplines of visual arts, music and multi-cultural issues simply makes the exhibit of more value to a broader range of people. Gender, ethnicity, ecology and social justice are topics addressed by important art works, these ideas seem to make particular sense to present within a university gallery setting.”
Members of university’s music department performed as part of the exhibit’s opening and input from students will help guide future exhibits at the school’s gallery.
“We are discussing with student colleagues a number of other exhibition topics that are a direct outgrowth of their thesis and course of studies,” said Spalding. “We are hoping that collaborating with them will considerably broaden their inquiries into their own selected topic and create a very special educational opportunity to build a supportive art exhibition exploring related ideas.”
By pairing thought provoking exhibits of world class works of art together with many of the university’s course curriculums, this unique partnership that brought Legends of Jazz! to life helps to ensure the further development and continued appreciation for art’s vital role in helping to understanding the wider world around us.
Legends of Jazz! is on display until March 23, 2016.