Though he’s best known as a painter, Roger Brown produced three-dimensional pieces that expressed his saucy, often biting satiric views even better; that work is surveyed in this excellent retrospective at the Chicago Cultural Center. Brown famously preferred advertising to high art, and Galvanized Temple is both more solid looking than classical architecture and amusingly ridiculous: the columns are garbage cans, and the peaked roof is made of aluminum siding. Brown shows his sympathy with everyday laborers in Mask for a Waitress, constructed around a mop whose strands would cover the wearer’s hair; flatware festoons a piece of wood running along the mop handle and the mask itself is painted with Brown’s signature yellow windows enclosing lone silhouettes, evoking the city dweller’s loneliness. To his credit, the artist also targets himself: in Painting for a Sofa: A Sofa for a Painting a miniature couch with horizontal stripes sits in front of a characteristic Brown painting with a similar design. It appears that a kitschy sofa might be seen as fine art–or that Brown’s images are mere decorative objects. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, through September 26. Hours are 10 to 7 Monday through Wednesday, 10 to 9 Thursday, 10 to 6 Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, and 11 to 5 Sunday; 312-346-3278.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Fred Camper.