artnet Asks: James Brown

He channels the emotional qualities of Jean-Michael Basquiat.

James Brown, Caput Mortem II, (2006). Photo: artnet Price Database.

James Brown, Caput Mortem II (2006).
Photo: artnet Price Database.

James Brown is most known for his 1980s semi-figurative paintings, which combined the emotional quality of Jean-Michael Basquiat with the visual vocabularies of primitive art and several styles of modernist experimentation, ranging from figurative wall color to Cubist distortions in oil paint. He was born in Los Angeles, California, and received his BFA from Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood. He went on to receive classical training at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, where he would start to realize his thoroughly modern style. His work has been exhibited internationally at both galleries and museums—most recently, his work has been shown at Galeria Hilario Galguera in Mexico City, Keitelman Gallery in Brussels, and Galerie Karsten Greve and Galerie Lelong in Paris. He and his wife reside in the city of Mérida, in the Yucatán. Brown splits his time between Mérida and Paris, where he prefers to paint. Read on to find out about his current projects and favorite spots in Mérida.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I never thought about it.  It was a task I just accepted.

James Brown, Untitled #1; Untitled #3; and Untitled #5 (3 works) (1986)

James Brown, Untitled #1; Untitled #3; and Untitled #5 (3 works) (1986)
Etchings with watercolor
Photo courtesy of Phillips New York.

What inspires you?
I hate the word  “inspire.”

James Brown, The Realm of Chaos and Light IV (2008)

James Brown, The Realm of Chaos and Light IV (2008)
Oil on canvas
Photo courtesy of Ma Galerie.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
Modern: The Piano Lesson, Henri Matisse, 1916.

Contemporary: Anne Truitt,  a certain installation.

James Brown, Shadow 65 (1990)

James Brown, Shadow 65 (1990)
Painting and collage on Japanese paper
Photo courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

What are you working on at the moment?
A group of Orb paintings, which are images of orbs seen in photographs taken in the garden of my other house.

When not making art, what do you like to do? 
I like to go to Julio’s. If you come to see me in Mérida, I will take you there.

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