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For more information or digital images, contact
Margaret Keough, director of marketing and communications
margaret (at) kemperart (dot) org or 816-457-6132

Exhibition Frederick James Brown: Modern American Storyteller
Celebrates Late Artist’s Work
Opens October 12 at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Frederick James Brown passed away in May 2012, leaving a legacy of painted stories. Best-known for his portraits of jazz performers, fellow artists, and other creative individuals, Brown created the monumental work, The History of Art (1994/2000) lining the walls of Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary. The exhibition Frederick James Brown: Modern American Storyteller, on view October 12, 2012–April 7, 2013, features many paintings from the Kemper Museum’s permanent collection, a significant holder of the artist’s artworks.

Exhibition-Related Programs

Art on Film at the Kemper: 120 Wooster—A Portrait of Frederick James Brown
1:00 p.m., Sunday, November 18
Meeting Room | FREE
In honor of the Museum’s exhibition Frederick James Brown: Modern American Storyteller, it is screening 120 Wooster (58 minutes, 2002) by Mary Kemper Wolf. The film features comments by colleagues about the artist, his colorful and forceful personality, and his famous studio, plus footage of Brown at work. Seating for the lecture is first come, first served.

Hip Hop Creative Writing Class for Teens
11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Saturday, February 2
Meeting Room | FREE
Connecting to Frederick James Brown’s explorations of jazz and blues in the late 20th century, hip hop poet Stacy Smith guides high-school students through creative writing and performance exercises inspired by the music of today. Registration is required. Call 816-457-6136 or email

Brown’s ability to marry the lives of cultural heroes with the style and themes of figuration and abstraction solidified his reputation as a modern American storyteller. Born in Greensboro, Georgia in 1945, Brown grew up on Chicago’s South Side, where his mother, a baker, frosted colorful cakes and confections. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, he became a fixture in New York in 1970s. His 5,000-square-foot loft at 120 Wooster Street served as an around-the-clock salon for artists and musicians determined to pursue their dreams in the early days of SoHo. He painted along side his mentor Willem de Kooning, who encouraged Brown to devote himself to painting. Brown spent time in the 1980s in China and was one of the first Western artists to have an exhibition in that country in 1988. He later moved to Arizona and lived until his death on May 5.

Frederick James Brown, Johnnie Hodges, 2005; mixed media on canvas on wood panel, 60 1/8 x 50 1/8 inches; Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, 2008.23

While he was deeply influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Brown was a driving force in reclaiming figuration’s importance after a period of minimalism and abstraction. His strong colors and articulated figures, drawn from German Expressionism and African art, are evident in his depictions of cultural figures from Count Basie to de Kooning. Music was central to the artist’s life, and he painted hundreds of portraits of performers of the 20th century from Muddy Waters and Ornette Coleman to Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith.
The Kemper Museum has had a long relationship with Brown. When he was asked to create a work of art for the Museum’s restaurant, he returned with The History of Art with its 110 paintings to line its walls. The colorful work tells Brown’s story of art history with his recreations of art through the ages from cave paintings to works by modern masters Jackson Pollock and Stuart Davis, among others. The restaurant, Café Sebastienne, is named after the artist’s daughter. The Museum also organized and presented the exhibition Frederick J. Brown: Portraits in Jazz, Blues, & Other Icons, curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and on view June 16–September 1, 2002 at the Kemper Museum before it traveled to the New Orleans Museum of Art and Studio Museum in Harlem.
In addition to the Kemper Museum’s holdings, Brown’s paintings can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
The exhibition, on view in the newly named Barbara and Paul Uhlmann Jr. Gallery at the Kemper Museum, was organized by Sarah Syanjom, an ArtTable Mentored Intern for Diversity. ArtTable is a leadership organization for professional women in the visual arts.

Thank you

Support for Kemper Museum exhibitions is generously provided by Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee; Francis Family Foundation; Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Commerce Bank, Trustee; David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee; ArtsKC Fund—Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City; Sosland Foundation; and Sunderland Foundation.

About the Museum

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1994 and at the core of the Permanent Collection is the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, a gift from the Museum’s founders and the Kemper Foundations. With works dating from 1912 to the present, the Museum’s collection features paintings, sculpture, photographs, ceramics, and more by modern and contemporary artists from around the world, including Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Georgia O’Keeffe, Fairfield Porter, Matthew Ritchie, Frank Stella, Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol, and Andrew Wyeth, among others. In addition, the Kemper Museum presents 10 to 12 exhibitions and welcomes 130,000 each year to its three locations—Kemper Museum, Kemper at the Crossroads, and Kemper East.

Hours and Admission

The Kemper Museum (4420 Warwick Blvd.) is open 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday–Thursday; 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday; and 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Sunday.

Café Sebastienne serves lunch 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday; and dinner 5:30–9:00 p.m., Friday–Saturday.

The Museum and Café are closed on Mondays and major holidays.

Kemper at the Crossroads (33 W. 19th Street) is open noon to 10:00 p.m., most First Fridays, and the galleries at Kemper East (200 E. 44th Street) are open 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday–Friday. Admission is free.

For more general information about the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, visit



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