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James Brown (September 11, 1951 – February 22, 2020) was an American-born painter active in Paris and Oaxaca, Mexico. He was most well known in the 1980s for his rough painterly semi-figurative paintings, bearing affinities to Jean-Michel Basquiat and East Village painting of the time, but with influences from primitive art and classical Western modernism.
His work has taken on several styles over the years but maintains a hand-made look combining concerns of the modernist tradition with motifs and spiritual interests from tribal art. Much of his work is a non-realistic but contains depictions or signs of recognizable faces or objects. More recently he has done more in an abstract mode. However, the line between representation and abstraction is often a difficult one in his work, such as his more recent "Firmament Series" – abstract canvases that can also be read as referring to constellations or stars, or groups of rocks. Besides paintings Brown has also produced sculptures and series of prints at various points in his career, and in the 1990s started to heavily utilize collage. Drawing and other unique works on paper have been important to his artistic development and production. In an Artforum review of a 25-year retrospective, Martha Schwendener noted, "The works range from abstract gouaches to biomorphic and figurative watercolors to collages that update the synthetic Cubist experiments of Picasso and Braque."