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The second half of the title comes from the inscription carved on many of the ceramics Brown bought to display and incorporate into his artwork. He was an avid, talented collector, and his many flea-market and thrift-store purchases wound up in installations he constructed for his home and studio in La Conchita, California.
The show includes Brown’s mid-90s Virtual Still Life series: abstract landscape paintings paired with ceramics that sit on shelves built into the paintings' frames. Interspersed with the paintings are shrine-like arrangements of objects—Mexican and southwestern folk art, pop-culture miscellany, a skillful paint-by-numbers piece by Aldo Piacenza—that once adorned Brown’s house.
Brown left his property to the School of the Art Institute when he died in 1997. SAIC professor Nicholas Lowe and a group of students used photos of Brown's house and the numerous records he left behind to reconstruct his assemblages and place everyday objects like his bedside table. The location of the pieces within the gallery echoes the layout of his house, which can be seen in an architectural model at the end of the exhibit.
Brown’s collecting was indistinguishable from his studio practice, Lowe said in a tour on Friday. Lines between art and life, high and low art, and even one piece and the next are blurred in "Calif USA." His work elevates the everyday, inviting us, as Lowe put it, to think about "how we arrange our domestic spaces and live our domestic lives."
Through October 3: Mon-Thu 9 AM-8 PM, Fri-Sat: 9 AM-5 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell, 773-324-5520, Hyde Park Art Center, reception Sun 8/29, 3-5 PM. Free.