James Brown, an artist who rose to prominence in the early 1980s East Village painting scene, has died. Mexico City’s Galería Hilaria Galguera, which represented him alongside Galerie Karsten Greve, of Cologne, Paris, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, confirmed the news on Instagram. Artforum reported that Brown was 68; he and his wife, Alexandra, had died in a car crash.
Brown first gained recognition in New York through his semi-figurative paintings, which were influenced by the style of contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat, alongside whom Brown sometimes exhibited his work. His works often involved crudely rendered faces and organic forms that appear to float in space.
Throughout his lifetime, Brown drew inspiration from early 20th-century artistic and literary works; many of his paintings allude to the writings of English modernist poet D. H. Lawrence. One of his most most well-known series, began in the late 1990s, was inspired by Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets (1914–16). At the time of his death, Brown’s series included more than 80 celestially themed abstract paintings, which featured in a group show at Galerie Karsten Greve’s Paris location.
Brown was born in 1951 in Los Angeles, where he attended high school and college before attending the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the late 1970s. After graduation, he joined the East Village’s interdisciplinary art scene. In 1983 Brown featured in the group exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, along with Basquiat, Donald Baechler, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, Futura 2000, and other figures preeminent in the city’s art world at the time. While in New York, he eventually expanded his practice to include sculpture, experimental printmaking, and ceramics.
In the following decade, Brown and Alexandra began working between New York; Mérida, Mexico; and Paris. His works are held in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, among other institutions.