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    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install2-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install3-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install4-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install5-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install6-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert
  • Wonner-Brown-install7-low
    William Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner exhibition at Heather James Fine Art Palm Desert

Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner: Seen Through Different Lenses

November 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020
Palm Desert, CA

Artwork

About

This exhibition is part of the partnership of Heather James Fine Art with the Crocker Museum as representatives of the estate of Paul Wonner and William Theophilus Brown. The show examines the similarities and differences between Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner and to their artistic approach to figuration in relation to art history. As noted in the subtitle, the exhibition highlights the unique vision of Wonner and Brown in their approach to figuration.

An artist couple, Wonner and Brown were aligned with the Bay Area Figurative movement emerging in the 1950s. Wonner and Brown met and befriended leading Bay Area Figurative artists including David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, and Elmer Bischoff. Over their long career, Wonner and Brown developed their own separate artistic style from each other. Nevertheless, in bringing works in conversation with each other in the exhibition, the viewer is able to see how they approached similar subjects and themes with their separate visual vocabulary.

Emphasized in the exhibition is their use of models, particularly men. Models played a central role in their process and ran throughout their career from the beginning when they worked alongside other Bay Area Figurative artists to the end of their lives. The figures, dominant, thoughtful and sensual, provide insight into their artistic vision. In their treatment of the male form, Wonner and Brown upend our notion of nudes. Often, the models are posed in ways more traditionally associated with female figures. Moreover, the proliferation of male nudes in multitudes of poses disrupts our understanding of which bodies are considered art and how those bodies are displayed. Their works pushes us to question our understanding of art history and of the human body.

This foregrounding of the male body serves as a curative to Clement Greenberg’s conception of modern art and modernity. Examining the figurative and representational art of Wonner and Brown opens up art history beyond a progression of uncontextualized, non-objective art. In the striking works of Paul Wonner and Theophilus Brown, lies a modernity rooted in integration – the balance between abstraction and figuration, a grappling with art history against a search for an individual voice. For example, the use of bathers and swimmers in both Wonner and Brown’s oeuvre references both the history of art, think of Paul Cezanne’s paintings, while also expanding the theme. This exhibition of bright and energetic works captures the range of their modern spirit and the unique lenses through which they created their art.

The Crocker has established the Paul Wonner and William Theophilus Brown Endowment Fund which will support museum projects relating to emerging artists and LGBTQI artists in accordance with the artists’ wishes. Heather James is proud to support the endowment fund in representing the estate of Wonner and Brown.

Artists