Painter John Zinsser writes:
Eric Brown is having his first proper New York City solo show debut. He’s been a serious abstractionist for 25 years, while working as an arts professional, mounting shows for other painters and bringing a scholarly eye to the post-war American canon.
He used to call himself a “secret painter,” but has quite visibly gone public over the past three years, with solo outings at Ille Arts in Amagansett and at a survey show at Vassar College.
Brown’s small-scale and medium-scale works are all about possibilities. Each displays a record of generative and transformational visual logic. They are mostly limited to two or three colors in hard-edged interplay. Often, a chromatic hue—orange, green, blue—surrounds silhouetted black form. The internal shapes can read as biomorphic figures, bulbous, symmetrical, often placed off-center in a kind of precarious imbalance. Two very recent larger black-and-white works employ shaped stretcher bar configurations. Throughout, subtly-inflected layerings of oil paint result in densely optical areas of flat opaque color.
Painted freehand, there is always a tenderness of human engagement. Mischievous absurdist humor runs against more traditional absolutist readings. At times, Brown allows a singular moment of “narrative” awkwardness to assert itself as a work’s central subject. Here, it’s like an invitation for the viewer to actively enter into the “crisis mode” of a painting’s own moment of coming-into-being.
The nine works in this exhibition capture Brown at a critical moment in his development. Following an intense three-week residency at the MacDowell Colony this past summer, each new effort has an urgency of purpose: stating anew the terms of the previous works.
Viewers may initially bring their own lexicon of indexical sources: Ellsworth Kelly, Leon Polk Smith, Myron Stout. But the paintings resist such identification. They seem, in fact, adamantly non-appropriative. Instead, they arrive as “beings” among us—very much in the present.
—New York, October 2016