July isn’t usually the high season for major gallery exhibitions, but this July is an exception, with the opening of two shows of work by artists of fame both historically and contemporaneously, on 2nd Friday Art Night, 5-8 p.m. July 13.
Paintings by the Brewer dynasty of artists — Nicholas (1857-1949), Adrian (1891-1956) and Edwin (1927-2002) — will be shown together, perhaps for the first time in one venue, at the Butler Center Galleries, 401 President Clinton Ave. (The three had shows almost contemporaneously at the Arkansas Arts Center, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Historic Arkansas Museum — then the Arkansas Territorial Restoration — in the mid-1990s.)
The Brewers rank among Arkansas’s greatest artists, though neither Nicholas or Adrian were native to Arkansas. They traveled the country painting landscapes and portraits, including the scenery and people of Arkansas. Adrian Brewer met his wife-to-be in Hot Springs, and in 1933 created the (short-lived) Adrian Brewer School of Art in downtown Little Rock.
While famed for their portraits of famous people, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt (Nicholas) and Joe T. Robinson (Adrian), it was their landscapes, panoramic vistas in vivid, sometimes hot palette, including Adrian Brewer’s scenes of Texas bluebonnets, that are more stirring. Every baby boomer is surely familiar with Adrian Brewer’s painting “Sentinel of Freedom” of the American flag — reproductions of the painting were hung in every schoolhouse nationwide.
Edwin Brewer, grandson and son of Nicholas and Adrian, was a painter of his time, painting still lifes and landscapes in looser brushstrokes and with a Cubist flair. Adrian and Edwin Brewer founded the Arkansas Art League, and Edwin Brewer helped create the Arkansas Arts Center’s Artmobile and was a founder of the Southern Watercolorists Society.
“A Legacy of Brewers,” which will be accompanied by a catalog, features work by the Brewers in Arkansas, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico and Texas from private and public collections.
The fourth generation of Brewers produced an artist, a literary one: Edwin Brewer’s daughter Audrey Wood is author of children’s books “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub” and “The Napping House.”
The Butler Center also opens “A Matter of Mind and Heart: Portraits of Japanese American Identity,” works from the Gould-Vogel Collection of materials from the World War II internment camps at Rohwer and Jerome. The documentary “Relocation, Arkansas,” stories of internment, will be screened at 3 p.m. Friday at the Central Arkansas Library’s Ron Robinson Theater.
New work by Justin Bryant, whose drawings and paintings of African Americans are more than portraiture, opens at the Historic Arkansas Museum. The show, “That Survival Apparatus,” features portraits — drawings, lithographs and mixed media — portraying only the bottom half of his subjects’ faces. The work was made in response to Maya Angelou’s poem “Mask” about a black person’s survival technique of concealing facial expression and feelings (“We wear the mask that grins and lies./It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes. …”). George Washington Carver’s masked face appears on the cover of a biology textbook, Malcolm X’s on the cover of a biography of the activist.
Bryant is also a performance artist and will perform his piece “Laugh a Lot,” also inspired by Angelou’s poem, in HAM’s Ottenheimer Theater at 5 p.m. Gentlemen Jazz will provide live entertainment afterward and Stone’s Throw Brewing beer will be served.
2nd Friday Art Night is packing at least six hours of events into its three hours. Also opening Friday night: The Arkansas League of Artists’ annual “Members Show,” a juried exhibition of work in all media, at Matt McLeod Fine Art; this year’s juror was Hendrix art professor Matthew Lopas. The 2018 Delta des Refuses continues at River Market Books & Gifts, the Art Group Gallery has work at the Marriott Little Rock, Gallery 221 will feature work by Arkansas artists and refreshments will be available at 2nd Friday partners Nexus Coffee Creative, Bella Vita Jewelry, Copper Grill and Stratton’s Market. See the weekly To-Do List for information on the 2nd Friday event at the Old State House Museum, where Erin Enderlin will appear in concert.