24 October 2014

Roger Brown Study Collection

In truth, I'd never heard of the Roger Brown Study Collection until I started the museum studies program. I'd walked by the nondescript building before, even stopping to pose outside of it this summer not knowing that an eclectic collection of art, tchotchkes, and familial memorabilia were hidden within the brick structure.

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Oh you know, just hanging out next to a secret museum
Having visited the museum on Tuesday, my mind keeps wandering back to the collection as well as the intention of the space itself. Roger Brown collected and displayed objects, ones that carried an aura that surpassed the convention of the hierarchical nature of the art world. Handmade Girl Scout projects are displayed on an equal plane next to Ray Yoshida, Richard Hull, and family keepsakes. Lumpy ceramic pots by sculptural novices are given the same spotlight as handcrafted Alabama baskets and a large collection of arts & crafts architectural models of churches.

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Erasing the hierarchy of the art museum, the aura of the objects carry the weight of importance.
Like any museum, there were rules. Don't sit on the furniture and don't touch the objects. But if you wanted to take a peek inside of his medicine cabinet or a closer look at his genealogy case, just ask a glove-wearing museum worker and they'd be happy to open things up for you. Walk out to the garage, and take a seat in his Mustang, they don't mind. Because the house museum is still a home. It breathes and creaks as any other home does, despite that fact that it's not inhabited in the typical way a house is lived in.

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Nothing is off limits. And for good reason! Notice the little illustration on the second shelf next to the magnifying glass?
While it might strike a museumgoer as being a bit odd, this different approach to museum practice is at the core of Roger Brown's intention for the space. Inspired by the Artist's Museum he'd seen on a road trip in South Dakota in 1972, Brown wanted to create a space for his collection  grounding the Chicago Artist's Museum in his home and studio at 1926 N. Halsted. He curated the space creating unexpected dialogues between objects. Moments in his home/museum are evocative of the work he created, prone to whimsy, color, pattern, and a mish mosh of inspiration. 

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In addition to the Roger Brown Study Collection being the site of an eclectic gatherings of objects, it's also a space for artistic practice and educational inquiry. Having donated the home to the School of the Art Institute in the late 1990's, the school has utilized the space in a variety of ways. Staging performance art inspired by the home, doing architectural historic preservation on various aspects of the building's structure, and recontextualizing pieces of the collection into meaningful ongoing exhibition practices are just a fraction of the ways the space continues to inspire engaging work across media and explorative practices.

Though Roger Brown passed away in 1997, his artful spirit and prolific mind continue to live on, through the life brought into the house on visits and in the artistic practices he continues to inspire and engage.

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1 comment :

  1. This looks like such a cool place, please take me there when I come to chicago!

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