City Nights: All You-Wanted-To-Know-or-Don’t-Want-to-Know-And-Were-Afraid-To-Ask-A-Closet-Painting (subtitle supplied by Barbara Bowman)
oil on canvas
72" x 48"
Brown provokes the viewer’s voyeuristic inclinations, drawing them in with the perilous sky—what could be so incredibly wrong? Upon closer inspection, the viewer is forced to acknowledge the intimacies shared between gay men. In Brown’s painting there is no room for a world that denies their existence.
The long subtitle of the painting was provided by his friend Barbara Bowman after seeing the painting in his studio. Bowman recounted how they talked about the double meaning of “closet painting”: the work may have illuminated the sexual encounters of gay men, but because of the risqué narrative, City Nights might end up in a closet, off view. Brown alluded to his identity as a gay man throughout his oeuvre. In later years, he directly addressed the AIDS crisis, a disease that would eventually take his life.
Promised gift of Mark and Judy Bednar