A Little Song to Cross a Big Stream
Paintings by Marcus Brutus
By Kate Mothes
The cavernous interior of a historic Swedish psychiatric hospital in has been transformed over the past year into a home for exhibitions as part of Carl Kostyál‘s gallery program. Currently on view at Hospitalet Stockholm is At the Rendez-Vous of Victory, a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Marcus Brutus, focusing on Black figures in scenes of relaxation, transit, and action. Evoking 19th century paintings of the leisure class, Brutus’ works nod to the oeuvre of Gustave Caillebotte’s ‘Paris Street; Rainy Day’ (1877) or Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ‘Two Sisters (on the Terrace)’ (1881). In a manner similar to Kerry James Marshall, who challenges the historical absence of Black figures in painting, Brutus’ distinctive subjects are protagonists in intimate scenes of respite or pleasure that Western art history has chiefly excluded.
Situated in front of an array of interior and outdoor scenes, the figures appear simultaneously involved in their own pursuits, yet openly invite the viewer to participate or observe. Manicured lawns and new homes, sweaters draped over shoulders, and a snippet of a yellow cab in the city suggest a nostalgic air, nodding to the era of prep and the suburban country club. The subjects’ eyes often meet ours: a man looks prepared to toss a football in ‘The Light’s Judgment’ as he stands in front of a driveway basketball hoop. In ‘Marine Intimacy’ and ‘On the Islands of All Winds,’ figures interact with expansive landscapes, relaxed during a pause between activities. Rather than mere observers, the viewer becomes a participant in a tennis match, a jam session, shopping, or equestrian practice. Each figure is on their way to something—to catch a train or step off one, to win a match, perform a song, or simply revel in free time and the warmth of the sun.
Header image: To Stockholm, 2022. Acrylic on canvas 60 × 48 in. All works © Marcus Brutus. Images by Carl Henrik Tillberg, courtesy of Carl Kostyál.