In 2008 Brendan Fowler started making sculptures. After several years as an avant-garde musician and performer under the name, BARR and an editor for the alternative magazine, ANP Quarterly, Fowler started making what he calls his “crash piece” series. Taking several framed photographs, Fowler “crashes” them together, creating a surgically devised masterpiece that is both chaotic and precise. An autobiographical series, the crash pieces are made up of photographs of his friends, flowers, mirrors and objects. He has now moved on to creating detailed monochrome paintings of photographs taken on his point-and-shoot camera, called “New Camera.”
On Wednesday, March 5th, Fowler lectured at Baltimore School for the Arts as part of The Contemporary’s CoHosts Speaker Series. Co-sponsored by the Baltimore gallery, Nudashank, Fowler’s presentation was energetic, fast-paced, chaotic and eccentric – much like his art. A native of northern Baltimore County, Fowler attended Park School and then Sarah Lawrence College in New York, before moving to LA to pursue a music career that combined free-form jazz percussion and avant-garde performance art. BARR went on to become relatively popular among the independent music scene, even opening for the neo-psychedelic band, Animal Collective. He spent seven years as an editor for ANP Quarterly, a magazine founded by the alternative skateboard brand, RVCA but is now a full-time professional artist, something he says he is thrilled to be able to do.
Why did Fowler decide to become a visual artist? “I wanted to create objects that could function better in my absence than I could,” he said to a packed house on March 5th. “I love being in the room, but you can’t always be, you know?”
While frantically describing his life as an artist – jumping from past to present and back again, Fowler conveyed one overarching message: His work is made up of very personal, very vivid fragments of his life. This is quite literal in his “crash series” as the photographs are of his friend’s hands, his curators cell phone, his bathroom mirror or a bouquet of flowers – all snapshots of his emotional existence.
Fowler’s current project, “New Camera,” is a photo series. Except, they’re not photos at all, even if Fowler wants you to think they are. When asked by an audience member at Baltimore School for the Arts about why he refers to them as photos when they’re actually paintings, he exclaimed “Well, because!” Alicia Eler of Hyperallergic describes the project perfectly: “Fowler renders the photographic image useless, a mere pattern of designs and colors hanging the wrong way, asking nothing more of the viewer than to contemplate what a camera can’t produce.”
The resurgence of The Contemporary and their dedication to thoughtful, site specific art and diverse programming is imperative to the continued growth of Baltimore’s creative class. The Deutsch Foundation funds The Contemporary to help make this CoHosts series possible.