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Roger Brown (1941-1997)
Property from an International Collection
Roger Brown (1941-1997)

Lenny Skutnik and Norman Mayer (Two Opposites of Human Character)

Roger Brown (1941-1997)
Lenny Skutnik and Norman Mayer (Two Opposites of Human Character)
titled 'LENNY SKULNICK (SP?) AND NORMAN MAYER (Two opposites of human character)' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1982.
Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1982

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Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Head of Sale

Lot Essay

Roger Brown was an American artist associated with the Chicago Imagists and known for his distinct painting style that was representational in subject matter, yet grotesque in execution and coated with sociopolitical commentary. After a road trip, Brown shifted his focus towards American landscape. This body of work features a reliance on rigid composition and visually arresting pattern. These new tools of visual representation coincided with the artist’s paintings becoming more political and polemical. The present lot depicts two figures of American history, Lenny Skutnik and Norman Mayer, to whom the artist refers as “Two Opposites of Human Character,” noted in the painting’s title. Skutnik is a retired employee of the United States Congressional Budget Office. On January 13, 1982 – the same year this painting was conceived – Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the frozen Potomac River in Washington, D.C. As passengers were being rescued, Priscilla Tirado was too weak to hold onto the line dropped from a rescue chopper and struggled to remain afloat. Skutnik, one of many bystanders, jumped into the freezing water and pulled her to the river bank, saving her life. Mayer was an anti-nuclear weapons activist that threatened to bomb the Washington Monument. The same year as Skutnik's heroic dive, Mayer drove a white van bearing the message “#1 PRIORITY: BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS” up to the base of the Monument. Wearing a black motorcycle helmet and blue snowsuit, he sprang out of the van with a remote control in hand, claiming he would detonate unless the dialogue on the threat of nuclear weaponry was undertaken seriously. After ten hours of negotiation and tense stand-off, Mayer tried driving off, threatening to become a moving time bomb, and the police opened fire, hitting him four times and ending his life.

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