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Deborah Brown
A Visual Narrative of the Houston Street Station Murals

November 22 - December 13, 2000

Public art has been in tremendous resurgence for several decades now, particularly since the advent of municipal percent-for-art programs; programs that legislatively set aside a fraction of public building budgets to be used for art. The funds are applied in the commissioning of artwork to be designed into a built or renovated public environment. Hundreds of government agencies today have their own public arts programs that follow this model.

This exhibition is designed to tell the story of Deborah Brown’s experience in creating seven mosaic murals that now adorn the North and Southbound platforms of the IRT Houston Street Station in Manhattan. The work was commissioned by the Arts for Transit program of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. For artists like Brown, to participate in such projects is to subject their hard-won twentieth century creative autonomy to unfamiliar pressures.

How, for example does a painter preserve a traditional fine arts identity while trying to satisfy a myriad of interests, each demanding cooperation? Working closely with architects, building committees, representatives of local communities – confined to parameters set by construction schedules, material limitations and site specifications, artists working on public projects have indeed entered a brave new world. And yet they not only survive with their unique sensibilities intact, they flourish, and in many respects have redefined through their independent thinking our concept of public art.

For it is precisely the artist’s retention of personal expression that often brings success to these projects. Aside from her skill, vision and judgement, it is Deborah Brown’s genuine whimsy that spans between the kind of personal orientation that has been the touchstone of modernist tradition and our ever-evolving notion of public space.

The exhibition includes the artist's seven oil studies, facsimilies of contractual documents, photographic records of fabrication and installation by Miotto Mosaics, and a narrative in the artist's voice. The college gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Mr. Sam Rosenblatt, as well as the Arts for Transit office of the Metropolitan Transit Authority for lending paintings to this exhibition.

Peter Malone

Exhibition checklist

Turtles Ride for Free ...image
oil on canvas board

Night Shift
oil on canvas board

Eye Opener
oil on canvas board

oil on canvas board

Platform Diving
oil on canvas board

Family Outing
oil on canvas board

Morning Rush
oil on canvas board

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