Frederick J. Brown: A Drawing in Five Parts

December 9, 2022–April 2, 2023

A pioneering figure in New York City’s art scene of the 1970s and 1980s, Frederick J. Brown (1945–2012) developed groundbreaking approaches to abstraction, figurative expressionism, and portraiture.

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This exhibition features Brown’s series of five monumental works on paper titled The Actress: A Drawing in Five Parts, a recent gift to the Museum. The series explores the emotive progression of a stage performance by actor Jillian O’Brien. Homing in on Brown’s interests in Black expression, performance, and creativity, this exhibition turns a lens on his unique, experimental, and powerful practice of portraiture.

Drawing from his African American and Native American ancestry, as well as a breadth of knowledge in art-historical traditions, Brown engaged with American history and music, the urban fabric, religion, and spirituality. Together, the artworks on view present a visual performance in painting that captures the dynamic spectrum of emotion embedded in the creative process.

Born in Georgia and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Brown divided his time between New York City and Phoenix, Arizona. His loft studio, located at 120 Wooster Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, became a central gathering place for artists, musicians, writers, dancers, and performance artists. There, he collaborated with jazz musicians like Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton, and Abstract Expressionist painter Willem De Kooning, among others.

Brown’s work is in public and private art collections throughout the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The exhibition features interpretive content and a new essay by American art historian and curator Lowery Stokes Sims.


Lead sponsorship of the exhibition is provided by DeWayne N. Phillips and Caroline A. Wamsler, PhD.

Exhibitions are made possible by assistance provided by the County of Westchester.

We are deeply grateful to Marilyn Appel for her impactful gift of this series to the Museum’s permanent collection.

Special thanks to Bentley Brown and Terry Joshi.

Frederick J. Brown (American, 1945–2012). The Actress (A Drawing in Five Parts) #2, 1987. Oil and pencil on paper. Gift of Marilyn Appel, 2022 (2022.18.2). © 2022 Frederick J. Brown Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.