Finding Place: Freddie Brice

Freddie Brice, untitled, 1992, acrylic on wood, 48 x 48 inches.

Freddie Brice

Kerry Schuss Gallery

March 13 through April 17, 2021

By JOHN DRURY, April 2021

It is funny, the “ups and downs” of expressed appreciation for most artists, the faddish and often feverish group embrace so often short-lived, as they come and go – the popularity of this or that maker, constantly in flux. Our current sequestered circumstance also oddly finds us embracing too often tepid work, as individuals and institutions pivot – to appear “woke” – accepting artists of persuasions which should never have been excluded from the conversation in the first place. 

Too often we circumnavigate around genius in heated and desperate search for self-validation. So often an artist has languished in near-obscurity for years, even decades, before the “right” support (read: some artworld royalty) comes along with praise, curators and gallerists then arriving in droves – a monkey see, monkey do response – where a gravy train is concocted of thin air. But there is certainly a danger in embrace a body of work, simply because makers fill this or that previously under-recognized or purposely ignored category. And beyond the dilution of quality, reputations are damaged.

Freddie Brice, “Fish”, 1993, acrylic on wood, 32 x 48 inches.

There are others, and I count Kerry Schuss particularly amongst them, who react in real time to what they believe is worthy our incisive attention and stick to their guns, to champion a perceived quality through thick and thin. Schuss was a supporter of Freddie Brice, while the artist was alive and continues to do so, following his death in 1998; much to the credit of the dealer, this is Freddie’s fifth solo exhibition with Kerry. Inclusion is best exhibited in long-term embrace.

The best in painting, simply shows us what the rest is not. There could not then, have been a better time than the present, for the current exhibition of works by Freddie Brice at the Kerry Schuss Gallery. There is little, that has the graphic impact of white on black and not since Keith Haring took chalk to black paper in the subways, has an artist taken command of the limited pallet to such glorious ends.  The things of domesticity – the proverbial picket fence, a window curtained in frill, potted plants, a bulb not bare but, fancifully shaded and atop an end table; interior settings, while seemingly benign, perhaps thought luxurious to an oft-institutionalized individual of limited means. They fill Brice’s canvasses to the very edges. With the exacting and spare application of paint with no less verve than that of Franz Kline, Freddie scrubs paint into position, edges intuitively found to establish shape; form the stuff of discovered riches. There is not sketching beforehand, or pre-supposition, or pre-determination or known outcome. Freddie’s is not paint-by-number, nor recipe, or tried and true methodology. He gives us more, than is too often so little, from the “every color and the kitchen sink” practitioners of the craft.

Freddie Brice, untitled, 1992, acrylic on wood, 32 x 40 inches.

Comparing a Brice painting once, in a review of the now defunct Black Fine Arts Show, for artnet magazine, (Fairs On The Fringe; 2007) as; “…on par with the quality of a William Hawkins work, but lean and not as cheerfully colored.”, I stick by this evaluation of the Harlem painter’s work, in comparison that the now universally celebrated Columbus artist. Recognition was unhurried to reach each but, cream will inevitably rise - regardless fad, the fickle or frivolity. Slow and steady wins the race. Be there, to bear witness the crossing of the finish line. WM

 

 

John Drury

John Drury is a multi-media artist, published author, independent curator and instructor. Drury holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design (1983) and a Master of Fine Art Degree in sculpture (1985; including a minor in painting), from Ohio State University. John is the father of two teenagers, living in New York City since 1989 and has received the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award for his work in sculpture.

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