Detail of Sssummmmmwhhhhhhhhhhere, 2018

a simple song

Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.

Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 | 6-8pm
Exhibition dates:
 January 9 – March 2, 2019

Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York is pleased to present a simple song by 2018 Workspace Resident Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., opening January 9, 2019 and running through March 2, 2019. This exhibition comprising of multimedia photographic and photo-sculptural works, draws influences from Billy Preston’s 1971 album, I Wrote a Simple Song, in which the named track describes working on a straightforward song for an intended person and having the song embellished for radio success, leaving this special gesture now stripped of its intimacy and privacy.

In Brown Jr.’s portrait photographs, the pictured individuals are often obscured or located residually within the image. In Sssummmmmwhhhhhhhhhhere, a site-specific installation in which Brown Jr. has created a woven awning in front of a photograph, some areas of the image are obscured completely, while others are slightly visible. The work is less concerned with representation, more often rendering private moments and discourse with reserve.

Brown Jr. has been interested in the photographic history of black representation and how intimate experiences are revealed as both personal artifacts and sociopolitical stimulus. However, in subverting the biographical context in which his images are made, he creates photographs that are open-ended in a literary sense. Using the pictured environment, objects within the space, or the margins of the frame itself to disguise or reference an individual, Brown Jr.’s photographs become a prime space for curiosity and refusal.

In the work titled, He gave and he gave, but he wouldn’t have given at all if I didn’t let him in, if I didn’t cover my body in soap three times, swish oil between my teeth 47 minutes ahead of the time, that I expected him (Wounded), Brown Jr. depicts a traditional family picture frame, but instead of showing familial experiences, the structure fractures and compartmentalizes happenings within individual photographs. Through the framework, some details are revealed while others remain unknowable to the viewer, further accentuating the limits of voyeurism when observing private interactions.

The works in a simple song offer a visual exercise for the viewer through Brown Jr.’s photo-structural works that use public space to further obscure private moments. The viewer is allowed to be a part of this intimate experience, yet through the constructed space is asked to maintain a respectful distance to gain access to the pictured environment or individual.

Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. (b. 1993) is a conceptual photographer working on ideas related to intimacy, domestic space, and marginality. Brown Jr.’s work has been featured in exhibitions domestically and internationally. Brown Jr. was a participant in the New York Times Portfolio Review (2016) and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2017). He received his BFA in Photography from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He is currently participating as an Artist-in-Residence at St. Roch Community Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.


“Looking at artist Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.’s photographs over the last few years, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on something, like catching the middle of a conversation between friends on public transit, or overhearing one side of a phone call. In the presence of Brown’s photographs, you remain in wonder, speculating within the gaps he leaves for us onlookers. Instead of giving in to photography’s susceptibility to spectacularize or idealize, Brown opts for the uneventful, seemingly inconsequential bits and pieces laden with history and elliptical meaning.” Aperture

“Imagine you’re visiting your friend’s home for the first time. You can’t remember the directions to the bathroom, and you accidentally enter the living room where a relative of your friend is preoccupied with some activity. You’re nosy, so you stand there a little bit longer as curiosity gets the best of you. Every time you inch closer, something obstructs your. You think you see one thing, but the possibilities are endless. More importantly, it’s not your business. I constantly encountered some version of this scenario while visiting Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.’s first solo exhibition, a simple song, at Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York. Named after a track on Billy Preston’s 1971 album, I Wrote a Simple Song, the deceptively direct, nine multimedia, photo-sculptural, and photographic images thrust visitors into the private and intimate daily occurrences of the photographer’s family and friends.”  BOMB

“These informal, intimate scenes of black life—often tender—dominate Brown’s first solo exhibition, a simple song, the title of which is based on I Wrote a Simple Song, soul artist Billy Preston’s 1972 record that talks about the disappointment of making deeply private music for public consumption. Brown addresses this quandary, too, with his partially obstructed photographs. Another work from 2018 captures a full-length oval mirror, a figurine, a dog statuette, and a strip of wallet-size studio portraits trapped beneath a sheet of glass on top of a table, or maybe a dresser. The top half of the mirror is partially obscured by a dark rectangle. When the piece is observed from another vantage point, the rectangle reveals a woman resting her head on her hand while glancing downward. She is an added jolt of melancholy—a kind of phantom who presides over this sullen tableau.” ArtForum

“Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. will discuss his photography practice with curator Isolde Brielmaier on the occasion of his first exhibition at Baxter St, a simple song. Referencing Billy Preston’s 1971 album, I Wrote a Simple Song, the multimedia photographic and photo-sculptural exhibition focuses on everyday moments, intentionally subverting their more intimate or private qualities.” Galerie

Each year Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York selects four emerging photographers living in New York City for the Workspace Residency Program, which offers them analog and digital workspace at the International Center of Photography, access to the Baxter St at CCNY community and programs, and solo exhibitions at Baxter St. This exhibition is the second in a series of four solo exhibitions by 2018 winners of the Workspace Residency, supported by the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, Fujifilm of North America, Awagami Factory, and Yarden Wines.