Otto Zoo gallery presents an exhibition, curated by Peter Nagy, of works by Stephen Mueller and James Brown.
The paintings of Stephen Mueller (Virginia, 1947) and the sculptures of James Brown (Los Angeles, 1951) occupy similar positions on the long-sweeping arc of Modernist Abstraction, now bending as if by the gravitational forces of Post-Modernism and non-Western cultural traditions. Both artists seem to negotiate a Western, secular pedigree of reduction and refinement while accommodating languages culled from pre-Modernist and sacred sources. The approach they share feels close to the art of Tantra, the occult branch of Hinduism that employs deeply personal iconographies to garner both power and knowledge. Both artists eschew a socialized or overtly communicative art practice (no Relational Aesthetics and photo/text panels here), preferring to allow a solitary studio practice to become something like ritualistic devotion or a meditative discipline.
Stephen Mueller, showing for the first time in Italy, is a New York painter who held true to that city’s tradition of abstraction, fusing expressionistic gestures with geometrical motifs in his work of the 1980s. In the past twenty years, his practice has turned towards more Asian sources while his technique has excelled in both command and nuance. Soft washes and stains of color nuzzle up against one another, their forms suggestive of elements derived from tibetan Thangka paintings and Rajasthani miniatures. Geometrical forms appear on occasion, describing the similarities between Mandalas, cell structures and the silhouettes of temple architecture. Mueller’s abstraction is syncretist, his inspirations and allusions akin to a lilting tune heard from a distance and only barely recognizable or the gentle wafting of incense smoke through the air.
James Brown, originally from California, established himself in New York and Europe in the 1980s and has been based in Mexico for the past twenty years. Primarily a painter, he developed a sculptural vocabulary in the ‘80s that transformed found objects into esoteric constructions. Using forms from antiquated decorative arts lexicons, his sculptures in bronze feel both ecclesiastical and commemorative; they might be found in a Zen temple in Kyoto or marking a make-shift grave in some tribal area. Brown’s sculptures are neither figurative or architectural, nor are they completely abstract and devoid of recognizable affiliations.
Stephen Mueller (Virginia, 1947) lives, works, paints and teaches in New York City. He received a BFA from the University of Texas (1969) and a MA from Bennington College (1971). He has had over thirty solo shows in the United States, Europe and Asia. Next to being honored with the Guggenheim Fellowship (2000), he has received many other awards and his work has been included in two Whitney Biennials (1987, 1995). In the past several years, he has also received the NYFA fellowship (2004), has had a solo show at Baumgartner Gallery (2006, New York), a mid-career survey exhibition at the Joslyn Art Museum (2003, Omaha, Nebraska), has received a Francis Greenburger Prize (2005) and in 2008 he was awarded a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Having taught at some of the most prestigious academies and art schools – such as Harvard, Princeton, NYU, SVA, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and RISD – Mueller has never lost touch with the ascended artists and, therefore, has been consistently involved in new and changing perspectives on art. His work can be seen in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Denver and Portland Museums, among others.
James Brown (Los Angeles, 1951) lives and works in Mexico. Solo Show (selection): 1991 Richard Green Gallery – Los Angeles; 1993 Galleria Der Brücke – Buenos Aires; 1994 Akira Ikeda Gallery – Nagoya; 1995 Leo Castelli Gallery – New York, Galleria Civica d’Arte Contemporanea – Trento, Galerie Samuel Lallouz – Montreal; 1996 Galleria Bonomo – Rome, Centre Culturel Français – Ljubljana; 1997 Serge Sorokko Gallery – San Francisco; 1998 Galerie Alice Pauli – Lausanne; 1999 Musée d’Art Moderne – Céret, Ace Gallery – Mexico City; 2000 Smallworks Gallery – Las Vegas, Dorothy Blau Gallery – Bay Harbor Islands; 2001 Juliana Gallery – Seoul, Burton/Marinkovich Fine Art – Washington, Wetterling Gallery – Stockholm; 2002 Galerie Jan Wagner – Berlin, Galeria Charpa – Valencia; 2003 Galería La Caja Negra – Madrid, Museo di San Severo – Naples; 2004 Ecole des Beux-Arts – Rouen, Galerie Willy Schoots – Eindhoven; 2005 Ex-Escuela Quintana Roo – Merida; 2006 Aidan Gallery – Moscow; 2007 Pierre Bergé & Associes – Brussels; 2009 Triangle Blue – Stavelot, Livingstone Gallery – The Hague. Group Show (selection) 1997 MNAM Musée National d’Art Moderne – Paris, Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou – Paris; 1999 Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio – Turin; 2001 Art Forum Berlin, n° 6; 2002 The Armory Show 2002 – New York; 2004 Galerie José Martinez – Lyon; 2003 ArtBrussels 21st Contemporary Art Fair; 2004 Navy Pier’s Festival Hall – Chicago, 2005 Chelsea Art Museum – New York; 2006 Wettering Gallery – Stockholm. His work can be seen in the permanent collections of Musée National d’Art Moderne and Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart in Berlino, Galleria d´Arte Moderna in Colonia, among others.