Ray Brown: Tumbling toward the End

Ray Brown: Tumbling toward the End
Ray Brown, <i>Blue Sky</i>, Oil on canvas, 30"x24"

The show has been extended through April 26; however, the gallery will be closed (open by appointment only) until April 6 due to Coronavirus precautions. The film screening of Ray Brown: Portrait of an Artist has been postponed, date and time TBA. Ray Brown passed away peacefully on March 13; we were so grateful to have the honor of working with him on this show.

Please feel free to peruse the show virtually, and contact us if you wish to purchase or make an appointment to see the works in person.

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Ray Brown: Tumbling toward the End, the first solo show presented at the Front, takes its title from the last collection of poems by Vermont poet David Budbill – a volume that, like Ray Brown’s work, considers beauty together with imminent mortality, and what it means to have a fleeting present and a fickle body.

Brown, who has been a fixture of the Montpelier art scene for many years, has been a member of the Front since 2018. He is the first of our members to present a solo show as part of the gallery’s new format, which will alternate between all-member group shows and solo shows every month, with openings on the first Friday of the month. As part of the exhibition, we will present a free screening of “Portrait of an Artist,” the feature length documentary film about Brown by filmmaker Nat Winthrop, on Sunday, March 22 at 2:00 at the gallery.

The works Ray Brown presents in this show are all from the past fifteen years, since a stroke at age sixty-five changed the way he paints – he learned to use his left arm instead of his right – as well as the way he thinks and uses his memory. Now at age seventy-nine, he is still inspired by the visible world, loosely basing compositions on the golden mean – a ratio of proportions often found in nature and widely used in renaissance painting. These works, many of which are being shown for the first time, cover a wide range of subject matter and styles, from still-lifes and flowers to large abstractions based on travels through Italy. Despite this diversity, Brown’s dedication to composition and his creative use of color are what unite his work. When viewing multiple canvases together, you can see how the elements of composition in a still life or grouping of building structures evolve into abstraction as shapes lose recognition and stand on their own merit. He uses a strong and unusual sense of color to resolve dynamic relationships between flatness and depth in his work.

While many of Ray Brown’s shows have presented viewers with a single complete body of work, this sampling of numerous styles gives a fresh perspective on the active life of a local artist who, as he approaches eighty this spring, has over sixty years of making art behind him. From a disciplined practice of painting every day comes work that feels fresh and vibrant. Though he is physically challenged and has an awareness of “tumbling toward the end,” Ray is able to be present in his work, without concern for the past or future. He’s able to paint exactly the way he wants to. 

Read the March 14,2020 Review in the Times-Argus by Mary Gow

Read the March 11, 2020 Review in Seven Days by Amy Lilly