The work of Vivianne Browne, a New York painter, and influential African American feminist and activist, has recently been reconsidered for its pro-feminist and anti-racist content. The important exhibition, We...
The work of Vivianne Browne, a New York painter, and influential African American feminist and activist, has recently been reconsidered for its pro-feminist and anti-racist content. The important exhibition, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, organized by the Brooklyn Museum, included her work. She also produced a small and select body of prints, one included in the portfolio Impressions: Our World, Volume I, created at Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop, along with works by Norman Lewis, Eldzier Cortor, Vincent Smith, Bennie Andrews, and Emma Amos.
Transformation II, a color viscosity etching, is a perfect example of techniques made popular by Stanley William Hayter, Kaiko Moti, Krishna Reddy, and Shirley Wales while working at the experimental printmaking workshop, Atelier 17, after its decade long relocation from Paris to NYC in the 1940s. This process uses the principles of viscosity to print multiple colors of ink from a single plate, rather than to rely upon multiple plates for color separation; a more immediate printing process contiguous to the action paintings created in cold-water studios nearby.
Vivian Browne would have learned this technique while working with her good friend Robert Blackburn who opened his printmaking workshop in Chelsea in 1947. Blackburn and Hayter had analogous views on running a print shop. They created kindred communities with equal focus on innovation of technique and exploration of materials, as well as international-global politics, cross-cultural dialogue, and building creative, equal-opportunity community in a time of division and war.
Thirty years after the invention of this technique, under the tutelage of her friend and master printer, Browne created a powerful multi-layered, abstract image using skills initially brought to America by European Surrealists, and she reinterpreted and reinvented them with a bold new perspective. Browne begins with a dark blue and then adds a transparent red, followed by yellow. The acid-etched shapes hold color, and then consecutive colored inks of varying viscosity roll up upon one another. Her constructivist composition is a perfect vehicle for form and color.