Blue Steel Gold Light
Artist…writer…professor…Daniel Brush is a renaissance man-his exceptional sculpture, paintings, and objects are the tangible documents of an amazing mind, an acute and perceptive eye, and a master craftsman's hands. In 2012, the Museum of Arts and Design will present Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light, a truly once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of the work of this creative genius. For the first time, Brush's work in painting and drawing will be shown alongside his works of sculpture, objects, and jewelry. The exhibition-comprising examples of his earliest granulated jewelry, a selection of his most significant steel and gold tablet and wall sculptures, examples of his large-scale paintings, and sculptural jewels made from Bakelite, aluminum, steel, and precious gems-will be installed in both of MAD's 2nd floor galleries, the first time a single living artist has commanded that entire floor.
MAD exists at the blur zone between art, design, and craft today-much as Daniel Brush himself, whose passions encompass the visual arts, philosophy, science, literature, and poetry. Over the past forty years, Brush has created a body of work unparalleled in contemporary art-from large-scale canvases and drawings to domed boxes encrusted with gold granules so tiny they must be applied with a one-haired brush. The artist's works, no matter the medium, are always an extension of his mind and heart-whether that reflects his day-to-day life or one of his many intellectual pursuits.
His career began with painting and teaching. Then, forty years ago, to balance the intensity of his paintings, Brush began to work in gold and various metals as a diversion. Today the two sides are parallel and share equal weight in his mind and work. There are periods in which he is totally occupied with painting, and reciprocally, there are long stretches in which the three dimensional work is all consuming. His paintings and drawings do not fit the canon of "American art," yet are clearly produced by a post-World War II American painter. These large works resemble written passages; astonishingly delicate ink or paint lines are scribed over and over across the surface, recording not only a trance-like remembrance or study of Brush's focus but also his breathing. His small-size sculptures in steel and pure gold are large-scale ethereal expressions of a pure spirit, and yet somehow clearly grounded. "I like that painters searched for the 'heroic sublime.' I like the idea that writers talk about voice."
Brush's life and work are inseparable. Depending on one's point of view, he either lives in his studio, or works in his home. His days are organized around a ritual of activities that have evolved over the years, necessary to achieve his almost meditative working state. Much has been said of his hours of sweeping the studio floor, or his eating the same food everyday for years. Brush's obsessions range from his studies of the 14th century Noh theatre to investigations into 5000 types of steel. From pure gold to pure cotton duck to aero space metal fact sheets, these materials are the companions to his language of expression.
His contemplative practices inform his work, and Daniel Brush expects that spirit of mindfulness to transfer to those who collect his meticulously wrought work. His collectors who have discovered the artist despite his fiercely reclusive nature comprise Brush's family worldwide. To collect one of his works is to begin a lifelong relationship with the artist; one does not "own" a piece by Daniel Brush so much as serve as its caretaker. Famous for reclaiming his pieces temporarily-and reworking them to express a transformative moment he recently experienced-Brush's singular devotion to his pieces extends to his collectors, for whom he hopes his work will serve as the poetry of reflection.
Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light will be the first comprehensive exhibition exploring the breadth and depth of the artist's career by presenting his artistic vision holistically. MAD believes that Brush's work, which most often goes directly from his studio to private collections, deserves to be seen by a much larger public. Through this work, visitors will be invited to explore the visual, technical, spiritual, and intellectual unity that pervades Brush's oeuvre.
Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light is accompanied by a profusely illustrated four-color publication that will not only stand alone, but continue to be appreciated as a work of art in its own right long after the exhibition has concluded. This will not be a standard art historical monograph but a volume designed by internationally renowned graphic designer Takaaki Matsumoto, with photographs taken by the designer himself. Essay authors include physician and professor of neurology and psychiatry Dr. Oliver Sacks, Columbia University; poet and professor of English, Saskia Hamilton, Barnard College; poetry editor Paul Keegan of Faber & Faber; Brett Littman, Executive Director of The Drawing Center; and David Revere McFadden, curator of the exhibition and Chief Curator of the Museum of Arts and Design.
Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light is made possible through the generous support of Siegelson, New York, with additional support from Christie's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller, an anonymous collector, and a group of private collectors.